North Korean State Media Fume About Human Rights Criticism From U.S.

By Patrick Goodenough | May 1, 2018 | 4:30 AM EDT

Kim Jong-un visits an elite school for military children in Pyongyang last October. (Photo: Uriminzokkiri)

(CNSNews.com) – North Korean state media on Tuesday slammed the Trump administration for spotlighting the regime’s human rights record and for demonstrating an “anachronistic” approach towards Pyongyang.

The strong-worded criticism marks a return to form after an easing off in recent months of vitriolic rhetoric attacking the U.S., ahead of a planned summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

It appears to have been prompted by two issues – the recent release by the State Department of its annual report on human rights around the world; and U.S. officials’ remarks in response to the regime’s announcement on April 21 that it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close a nuclear test site.

An article on the Uriminzokkiri (“Our nation”) propaganda website complained about the reactions of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to the “momentous and dramatic” North Korean announcement.

Even as the international community “enthusiastically welcomed” the decisions taken by the ruling party’s central committee, it said, Haley and Sanders had shown that “we are still stuck in an anachronistic anti-government hostile policy.”

The comments at issue included Haley’s Apr. 22 observation that sanctions had isolated North Korea and prompted it to pursue negotiations; and Sanders’ remarks on Apr. 23 to the effect that the administration is “not going to take the North Koreans simply at their word,” but that “the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue until we see concrete actions.”

“It would be better for the United States to learn how to treat opponents with respect,” concluded the Uriminzokkiri article, “by abandoning their oppression and arrogance.”

Another item posted on the site Tuesday tackled the U.S.’ focus on North Korea’s human rights record.

It pointed to the State Department’s annual human rights report, and Trump’s recent pledge to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring up at his summit with Kim the unresolved issue of more than a dozen Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s (apparently kidnapped to train spies in Japan’s language and culture).

This insistence on making human rights an urgent issue, said the article, showed a “rude and unattractive attitude” and was “an unacceptable challenge to our dignity.”

It said the U.S. was highlighting the issue of North Korean human rights at a time when the situation on the peninsula has “rapidly changed” and the leaders’ summit looms, leading international public opinion to now doubt the “authenticity” of the U.S.

The U.S. was in no position to judge others’ human rights records, argued the writer, and went on to list issues ranging from widening income gaps to racial and sexual discrimination.

On the other hand, “our people enjoy true human rights and enjoy a rewarding life,” he said, adding that human rights problems have never existed in North Korean society.

In similar vein a commentary by the KCNA state news agency labeled the U.S. human rights record “hideous” and said the true aim of U.S. criticism is to cause countries that are “disobedient to it” to disintegrate.

By faulting North Korea – “the most advantageous and dignified cradle of genuine life of working people in the world” – the U.S. was proving its sinister intention to check North Korea’s advance and “bring down its social system.”

Four years ago, the chairman of a major U.N. commission on inquiry into North Korean human rights concluded that the atrocities committed there were “without parallel in the modern world.”

The commission’s report detailed abuses including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, forcible transfer of populations, enforced disappearance and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

The Trump administration has not shied away from condemning human rights violations in North Korea.

In his State of the Union address the president declared that “no regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea.”

The new State Department report says the North Korean people last year “faced egregious human rights violations by the government in nearly all reporting categories including: extrajudicial killings; disappearances; arbitrary arrests and detentions; torture; political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh, life threatening, and included forced and compulsory labor; unfair trials; rigid controls over many aspects of citizen’s lives, including arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence, and denial of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; denial of the ability to choose their government; coerced abortion; trafficking in persons; severe restrictions on worker rights, including denial of the right to organize independent unions and domestic forced labor through mass mobilizations and as a part of the re-education system.”

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he still believes what he said last summer – before he became Trump’s chief diplomat – to the effect that the North Korean people “don’t live a very good life” and would “love to see him [Kim Jong-un] go.”

 


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow