Genocide in North Korea

By Robert Park

The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court define genocide as five specific actions committed with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

What is indisputable is that North Korea has employed each of the five acts characterized as genocidal in the Convention and Statute through (a) executions and state-sanctioned murders, (b) the systematic use of torture, (c) state-induced mass starvation in political prison camps and elsewhere, (d) forcible abortions and infanticide, and (e) the forcible transfer and enslavement of children.

Also the argument that North Korea has directed these attacks against the specific human groups protected under the Genocide Convention and Article 6 of the Rome Statute holds strong.

Genocide on religious grounds

In 2007, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) published a report written by international lawyers that was based on seven years of research and that confirmed that there are indicators of genocide directed towards religious groups in North Korea, and specifically against Christians. This is in line with the observations of Christian watchdogs such as Open Doors and Release International that rate North Korea as the world’s most egregious violator of religious rights. Its policy towards its indigenous religious population is said to extend far beyond “persecution”sincereligious believers as well as up to three generations of their entire families, including non-religious relatives, children, and babies still in the womb, are being exterminated.

There are many indications of the specific intent to destroy religious groups in North Korea, primarily due to alleged reasons of national security. Before the installation of the Kim Il-sung regime by the Soviets in 1945, the north was considered to be the center of Christianity in East Asia; 25-30% of Pyongyang’s population was Christian. Today all traces of this once-flourishing religious community and culture have been obliterated. Recognizing the inherent threat posed by faith to totalitarian rule and the Kim cult of personality, the DPRK regime has since its inception committed genocide against religious believers and their families.

Also Former North Korean police and security agents who were tasked specifically to identify and “eliminate”Christian groups have testified that the DPRK regime considers religion, and particularly Christianity, to be the primary threat to national security. Accordingly, the harshest punishment is meted out to repatriated North Korean refugees who have had contact with missionaries and churches in China. Refugees, after being forcibly returned, are brutally tortured and interrogated specifically to discern whether or not they had any contact with religious groups. Those that confess to or are suspected of having met with missionaries in China or of having converted to Christianity are either killed or banished to concentration camps for life along their entire families. According to Open Doors estimate the number of Christians currently imprisoned in North Korea’s concentration camps lies between 50,000-70,000.

Moreover, the aforementioned Christian human rights organizations believe that North Korean Christians who have not been publicly executed or killed by beatings or starvation in the prison camps have in many instances been used as guinea pigs in chemical and biological weapon experiments –an allegation which is not by any means new. For already over a decade North Korean refugees, including former prison camp guards who played a role in facilitating these atrocities, have been speaking out in an attempt to draw the international community’s attention to these widespread human rights violations, but to no avail.

Genocide on national, ethnical, and racial grounds

Equally compelling is the case for genocide committed on national, ethnical, and racial grounds through North Korea’s fixed policy of killing the half-Chinese babies of North Korean women who have been forcibly repatriated by China.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have been forced to flee to China in order to survive famine and oppression. The majority of these refugees consist of women, 80 percent of whom were victims of sex-trafficking or had been sold into forced marriages. However, China refouls over 5,000 North Korean refugees a year. And even if a North Korean woman marries a Chinese citizen the PRC authorities will repatriate every North Korean refugee they can find due to a 1961 treaty and a subsequent 1986 border protocol with the DPRK. But this practice stands in flagrant breach of its obligations under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol since once these refugees are forcibly returned, they face torture, imprisonment in camps, and even execution, as North Korea criminalizes exit from the country.

A large number of these refugees are North Korean women that became pregnant through rape. These broken refugees are then once again subjected to senseless and unrestrained brutality at the hands of DPRK officials after they are forcibly returned by China for “carrying foreign sperm.”In fear of the atrocities these refugees face back in their home country, they claim to always have a razor blade or arsenic on them in case they get caught by Chinese police, stating that they would rather commit suicide than suffer from the cruelties of the DPRK after repatriation.

North Korea also continues to systematically and brutally exterminate the children of North Korean women believed to be fathered by non-North Koreans (usually Chinese or Chinese-Koreans) through infanticide and forced abortions. According to the U.S. State Department, “The reason given for this policy was to prevent the birth of half-Chinese children.”The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has officially acknowledged North Korea’s “continued violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women, which in particular refers to the trafficking of women for prostitution or forced marriage, ethnically motivated forced abortions, including by labor inducing injection or natural delivery, as well as to infanticide of children of repatriated mothers, including in police detention centers and labor training camps.”

This is confirmed by multiple reports over the last ten years that have indicated that infanticide and forced abortion on ethnic grounds are systematically carried out in North Korea’s prisons. This practice, which also constitutes ethnic cleansing, corresponds with the DPRK’s obsession with racial purity. The intent to destroy racially mixed babies on ethnic grounds is therefore clear and incontestable.

Noteworthy is also a report published on December 19, 2011 by Genocide Watch, a reputable international NGO which “exists to predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide”and whose board of advisors includes many admirable anti-genocide activists such as Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire and Samantha Power (Special Assistant to President Obama and head of the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights). It conclusively found and confirmed that North Korea has committed genocide as defined by Raphael Lemkin’s 1948 Convention, stating that the organization “has ample proof that genocide has been committed and mass killing is still underway in North Korea.”



Robert Park, a founding-member of the nonpartisan Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea, is a Korean-American missionary and human rights activist.

[Photo courtesy of Living Act]

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