Word is, the president will take North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terror as early as today. The Washington Postreports that this move comes on the heels of threats by North Korea to re-start its nuclear facility at Yongbyon, where International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors were barred from entering earlier in the week.
Meanwhile, the Secretary General released a new report on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.
Although their veracity could not be independently confirmed, reports from a range of sources continue to cite a high number of public executions. There is allegedly a crackdown on petty economic criminals, whose number has increased owing to the current serious food shortages and difficult living conditions, which have also led to an increase in the number of kkotjebi (homeless children). When forcibly repatriated, nationals who had left the country without State permission continue to face interrogation, mistreatment and sometimes torture, followed by imprisonment and forced labour. Punishment for the family members of defectors has reportedly been used as a deterrent to prevent defection. There have been continued accounts of prisoners being subjected to forced labour, ideological rehabilitation and sometimes torture, many of whom allegedly suffer from malnutrition and chronic diseases. Female prisoners are allegedly subjected to sexual assault and forced abortion. The trafficking of women for the purposes of prostitution and forced marriage also continues to be reported. (emphasis mine)
This probably should not come as a surprise, but it is very disturbing nonetheless. And it is probably fair to say that these kinds of abuses will continue regardless of North Korea’s nuclear status or whether or not it is on a State Department list of state sponsors of terror.
UPDATE: “No decision has been taken yet,” says a State Department spokesperson on the question of removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terror. Consultations with the Russian Foreign Minister are pending.