U.N. committee adopts resolution on N. Korean human rights for 19th straight year

November 15, 2023

A U.N. General Assembly committee on Wednesday passed a resolution on North Korean human rights for the 19th consecutive year amid growing concerns for the safety of North Korean escapees who were repatriated from China.

The Third Committee handling human rights and social affairs adopted by consensus the resolution, which calls on countries to honor the international principle of non-refoulement. The resolution will be sent to a full General Assembly session for approval in December.

The passage came as Seoul and Washington have voiced concerns on continuing reports that hundreds of North Korean defectors in China have been forcibly repatriated as cross-border travel has increased following the North’s full lifting of pandemic-driven border closures this year.

Led by the European Union, this year’s resolution highlighted “very serious concerns” over the repatriations.

The resolution “strongly urges all member states to respect the “fundamental principle of non-refoulement, especially in the light of a resumption of cross-border travel.”

Regarding North Koreans seeking refuge, it calls for compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment — apparently out of persistent concerns that once repatriated, North Koreans could face harsh treatment.

Moreover, it encourages the Security Council to take “appropriate” action to ensure accountability, including by considering the referral of the North Korean situation to the International Criminal Court, and further sanctions to effectively target those who appear to be “most responsible for human rights violations.”

It also condemns “in the strongest terms the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights” in the North.

At the committee session, North Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Kim Song lambasted the resolution when it was tabled for the committee’s endorsement.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) categorically denied the draft resolution on the human rights situation in the DPRK submitted by the EU … as an anti-DPRK political plot,” he said, referring to the North by its official name.

He went on to criticize the resolution as a “fraudulent document consistent with falsehood, fabrication and plot” while stressing that the North has its “people-first” policy implemented in “all spheres of social life.”

Since 2005, the U.N. General Assembly has adopted the resolution condemning North Korea’s dire human rights situation every year.

As it did last year, South Korea co-sponsored the latest resolution. Since taking office in May last year, the conservative Yoon Suk Yeol administration has taken a proactive stance in dealing with the North’s rights issues.