UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Monday condemned [press release; UN News Centre report] the human rights record of people in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), calling on the international community to make efforts to improve the situation. Pillay expressed concern that the international community is almost exclusively focused on North Korea's nuclear program and not on human rights. Pillay had hoped that the new leadership would bring improvements in North Korea's human rights record but a year after Kim Jong-un [BBC profile] assumed leadership in the country there appears to be no improvements in the North Korea's human rights record. Pillay met with survivors from North Korea's political prison camp, which is believed to contain more 200,000 political prisoners or more. In addition to punishing peaceful activities, the practices in the camp also include torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment. Pillay stated:
They described a system that represents the very antithesis of international human rights norms. We know so little about these camps, and what we do know comes largely from the relatively few refugees who have managed to escape from the country. The highly developed system of international human rights protection that has had at least some positive impact in almost every country in the world, seems to have completely bypassed DPRK, where self-imposed isolation has allowed the government to mistreat its citizens to a degree that should be unthinkable in the 21st century.Pillay emphasized the need to obtain access into the country in order to provide human rights protections.
North Korea has faced ongoing international criticism for human rights violations. Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for a UN commission to examine human rights abuses in North Korea [JURIST report]. The rights group stated that little has changed within the totalitarian government since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father Kim Jong-il [BBC obituary] in leading the country one year ago. HRW stated the situation may be getting worse, noting a drop in the number of individuals escaping into China and reports by successful escapees of increasing crackdowns on escape attempts. In November the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK Marzuki Darusman expressed concern over the lack of development in human rights in the nation, despite having called [JURIST reports] on new leader Kim Jong-un last January to improve the situation.