Nobel Laureate calls for forceful action on North Korean human rights

October 5, 2015 6:15 AM

Spanish non-speakers are indebted to the DailyNK for alerting the wider world to a statement on North Korean human rights issued by the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the Argentine human rights activist Adolfo Perez Esquivel. He was a key leader in nonviolent civil disobedience movements in South America during a period of widespread military repression during the 1970s, being imprisoned in Brazil, Ecuador, and his home country of Argentina. (Ironically, given his views on North Korea, one of his nominators for the Peace Prize was Mairead McGuire recently of the Women’s Walk for Peace across the DMZ.)  His views are not without controversy, however: he has been highly critical of US military action abroad and insinuated in a letter to President Obama that the 9-11 attack might have been self-inflicted.  But on North Korea, Perez Esquivel appears to be on firmer ground.

Perez Esquivel argues that the militarization of North Korea and its systematic denial of human rights are well-documented. “As an extremely militarized country, there is no such thing as freedom in North Korea--not politically, socially, or even culturally. North Korea is a place where systematic violence, misery, and uncertainty pervade. Just as was previously the case in many South American countries--including Argentina--North Korea is a place where the oppression of human rights and kidnappings carried out by the government continue to this day.”

The key issue is the weakness of the international community’s response to the situation. The UN and its Human Rights Commission are weak and lack the necessary legal instruments and sanctions to ensure that the authorities respect the lives and freedom of the citizenry. “I say this because they have failed in the creation of effective sanctions or judiciary measures to ensure the North Korean people any kind of true freedom,” he writes.

Effective action requires international cooperation not only of major powers like the US and the EU, but countries that trade with North Korea, foremost China.

Perez Esquivel puts a great emphasis on inter-Korean reconciliation. “Not being able to meet your family members for decades due to the country’s division is another major violation of human rights,” he said. “The global community must come together to find a way for the South and North to resume family reunions and pave the way to unifying the Korean Peninsula.”

“What once seemed impossible became possible, as we see from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.”

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