Today the UN Human Rights Council heard the initial report from the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea. UN Watch intern Diane Rhim, delivered a statement in which she referred to her grandparents from that country and the importance of this Inquiry in speaking out for the North Korean victims. Her point was referred to by the Chairperson of the CoI in his concluding remarks.
Diane Rhim with Mr. Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the COI
UN Watch Statement to UNHRC 24th Session
Interactive dialogue with Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
17 September 2013
Delivered by Ms. Diane Rhim
Thank you, Mr. President.
I am Korean, and both of my grandfathers come from North Korea, so it means a lot to me to deliver this statement on behalf of UN Watch.
UN Watch was a strong advocate for the creation of this Commission of Inquiry, and we very much welcome its work. The recent hearings in Seoul provided a vital forum for victims to educate the world about their suffering.
In particular, we applaud Shin Dong-hyuk—who was here recently to receive UN Watch’s 2013 Moral Courage Award—for his powerful testimony.
Shin is the only known surviving escapee from a North Korean total control zone prison camp. In that terrible place, he was made to watch his mother and brother executed.
Shin isn’t just somebody who was sent to a concentration camp; he was born into a concentration camp.
At UN Watch’s Geneva human rights summit this year, Shin said the following:
As a child, the only thing I knew about my situation was what I was told by prison camp guards. They said to us: “You are all supposed to be killed, but the law has saved you instead. So you have to work hard. You must pay off all your sins that you and your family members committed until the day you die.” That’s all I knew about why I was there.
Personally, I have had the opportunity to work with North Korean refugees. I will never forget how one of them would not let me throw away a rotten tomato. She told me that all food is edible—fresh or rotten—and she ate it right in front of me.
The refugees share a common ambition and hope: to share their stories to the world, and let people know of the dire human rights situation in North Korea.
I urge the commission to help them.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. Michael Kirby (Chairperson of the COI on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
Thank you very much Mr. President. I would like to give thanks, on behalf of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), to all of the participants, the nation states, which have spoken through their distinguished ambassadors, and the representatives of observers and the non-governmental organizations.
I think in a formal session like this, it’s unlikely that concessions will be made. I know enough about how bodies of this kind operate to realize that it is a pipe drain. However, I can only suggest that the members of the council who share with me a love of the civilization of the Korean people and a desire to ensure that it is protected and advanced in harmony with universal human rights, will make that belief known to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and to its friends, and to ensure them that the process in which we are engaged is addressed to improving life for ordinary people; people such as appear in the videos and in the testimony that is now online.
I honor the grandfathers of Diane Rhim who spoke for UN Watch – and it is to all grandfathers and grandmothers and all grandchildren and people everywhere in the Korean peninsula, but particularly in the DPRK, that I address these closing thoughts. The endeavor of the COI, with my colleagues and with the help of our Secretariat, is to advance the human rights of people in North Korea. We would wish to do it with dialogue, but if we are denied dialogue, that cannot stop us from performing our function as this council has mandated. We will perform that function with integrity, with faithfulness, with honesty and impartiality. We will then report to this council and it will be for the council to decide what should then be done, and I hope that the answer will be a positive answer and not simply another report somewhere lost in this building – unattended, unconcerned – so that the grandfathers, grandmothers, grandchildren and others in North Korea continue to suffer.