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BosNewsLife – Human rights activists welcomed Friday, November 18, the first ever United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning North Korea’s “severe restrictions” on freedom of thought and religion and the Communist country’s use of “torture and public executions,” among other human rights abuses.

A total of 82 countries voted in favor of the non-binding resolution, 22 voted against and 62 nations abstained. The resolution cited “systemic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in North Korea , including torture, public executions and forced labour.

The Assembly also expressed “deep concern” over the humanitarian situation, in particular the high number of North Korean children suffering from malnutrition. North Korea has been relying on foreign food aid for a decade, with UN agencies feeding more than a quarter of the population.

The resolution, which was introduced by the European Union, is the Assembly’s first on North Korean human rights abuses, noted Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which investigates the plight of especially persecuted Christians.

“Previous resolutions adopted at the subsidiary Commission on Human Rights have been voted on by the Commission’s 53 member states, rather than the full UN membership that participates in the General Assembly vote,” CSW added.

South Korea abstained and China voted against adopting the document.

“CSW welcomes this step by the international community to recognize the seriousness of the human rights concerns in North Korea . It is one of the most serious violators of human rights in the world and we cannot turn a blind eye to the excessive suffering being inflicted upon the country’s population,” added CSW International Advocate Elizabeth Batha.

North Korea rejected the resolution and has made clear it wants Christian and other aid groups involved in feeding the hungry and other projects to leave by the end of the year. Pyongyang ‘s deputy UN Ambassador, Kim Chang Guk, charged that the measure was based on “falsehoods and fabrications”, the Voice Of America (VOA) network reported.

He accused the United States , Japan and the European Union of misusing human rights issues to unfairly criticize small and weak countries.

The resolution came on the heels of news that a North Korean underground church leader 64-year old Moon Seong Jeun, family members and possibly dozens of church members are likely to be executed on charges of attempting to overthrow the Communist government.

UK-based Jubilee Campaign, which advises the United Nations on religious issues, said Thursday, November 17 in a statement to BosNewsLife that it learned that 64-year old Moon Seong Jeun and some or all of his eight brothers and sisters were detained in July by State Security Agency officials.

In addition “some of the 80 church members were questioned by the Agency,” amid fears that many of them have been arrested as well, the group said Thursday, November 17.

Thousands of other Christians and dissidents are believed to be in prisons and labor camps across the country, where Kim Il Sung, the man recruited in 1945 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to found the Communist North Korean state, stamped out Christianity and the traditional Buddhism and Shamanism.

He also installed in their place an ideology resembling a state religion, which rejects any outside influence and which critics say promotes hatred and distrust of outsiders.

That ideology, which preaches self-reliance, is known as Juche, of which the late Kim is the central figure – so much so that the North Korean calendar begins with the year of his birth in 1912.

One of the tallest structures in Pyongyang is the Juche Tower , built in Juche 70, or 1982. “Each letter has its meaning, so ‘ju’ stands for master and ‘che’ stands for body,” Choe Hye Ok told VOA, which managed to get inside the isolated country this month. “So, Juche means ‘master of one’s self.'”

The cult of personality surrounding Kim Il Sung is now shared by his son, current ruler Kim Jong Il. Elsewhere in Asia, CSW said it was pleased that the European Parliament passed an urgency resolution Thursday, November 17, calling on the United Nations Security Council to help bring about a transition to democracy in Burma and urging the European Union to prohibit new investments in the country by European companies.

Irish MEP Simon Coveney, a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, who recently visited the Thai-Burmese border with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), was one of the initiators of the resolution which strongly condemned Burma ‘s military leadership, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), for its “total disregard for the welfare of the people of Burma .”

Especially Christian minorities have been persecuted in the country, a recent BosNewsLife investigation and other human rights groups revealed.