S. Korean envoy stresses N.K. children exposed to ‘egregious’ human rights violations

April 5, 2024

South Korea’s top envoy to the U.N. expressed concerns Wednesday over “egregious” human rights violations facing children in North Korea, including what he called the death penalty for distributing South Korean dramas.

Citing public sources, including North Korean defectors’ testimonies, Ambassador Hwang Joon-kook highlighted the “grim” situation for North Korean children during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council held under the theme of “Children and Armed Conflict.”

“Children in the DPRK are exposed to egregious human rights violations, including the death penalty for distributing South Korean dramas, detention to political prisoners alongside their family members as a collective punishment, and widespread use of child labor,” he said.

DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Moreover, children in the DPRK face a devastating humanitarian crisis as the DPRK regime relentlessly pursues its nuclear and ballistic missile program and its leadership squanders their scarce resources on luxury items,” he added.

Hwang also pointed out that 17 percent of children in the North are reported to suffer from stunted growth due to rampant undernourishment as he cited a recent publication by the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

In addition, the ambassador stressed that under international humanitarian law, children affected by armed conflict are entitled to “special respect and protection.”

“It is deeply deplorable that this sacrosanct principle is violated too often as parties to conflict attack humanitarian workers and use seizure and blockade tactics to deny the delivery of vital relief supplies,” he said.

“A striking example is the dire situation in the Gaza Strip, where the number of U.N. workers killed in the past six months has surpassed the total number of U.N. staff fatalities in all conflict zones and terrorist incidents worldwide over the last 12 years,” he added.

He also said that South Korea is “appalled” by the recent tragic deaths of seven aid workers of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization that has been delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip.

“In the face of these dismaying challenges, it is imperative first and foremost that the Security Council stand firm on its zero tolerance against the denial of humanitarian access to children,” he said, “There can be no room for geopolitical considerations in this regard.”