Statement by UK Permanent Representative Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the UN Security Council meeting on North Korea.

Dame Barbara Woodward DCMG OBE

President, I thank the UN High Commissioner and the UN Special Rapporteur for their briefing, and I extend my thanks as well to Mr Kim Gumhyok for your courageous and moving testimony. It is evident that widespread and systematic human rights violations in the DPRK continue.

 On the 10th anniversary of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, perpetrators remain largely unaccountable, and the North Korean people continue to suffer as we’ve heard so vividly from our briefers today.  

As we’ve also heard, you cannot separate DPRK’s human rights violations from the threat DPRK poses to international peace and security. The DPRK authorities continue to divert resources away from their people, to fund their illegal weapons programme.  These illegal weapons are financed through forced labour, as we’ve heard, from the pay of workers sent overseas, often into modern slavery. I urge the DPRK to end these practices without delay. It is incumbent on all UN Member States to implement resolution 2397 in full, a resolution that was unanimously agreed by this Council, and includes obligations to end the exploitation of overseas workers.

We are witnessing forced repatriations, state-sponsored abductions, and enforced disappearances. The United Kingdom also recognises the suffering of other nationals who have been abducted by the DPRK and we call for their return.

I also echo the call of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and urge all member states to respect the principles of non-refoulement and to not forcibly return those who have escaped the DPRK and then face threats to their safety and human rights.

The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry Report concluded wide-ranging human rights violations taking place in the country may amount to “crimes against humanity.” Ten years on, the DPRK regime continues to refuse to cooperate with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or with the UN Special Rapporteur.

Colleagues, we urge the DPRK Government to prioritise the rights of its citizens over the illegal development of its weapons programmes and encourage them to ease border restrictions on the international community.

The UK urges the DPRK to use their upcoming Universal Periodic Review to engage with the international community on human rights and implement lasting change and improvements for the people of North Korea.

Published 12 June 2024