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04/15/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – A coalition of human rights groups, including International Christian Concern, signed a letter published Wednesday urging President Biden to reprioritize human rights in North Korea. Human Right Watch, a watchdog organization, organized the letter, also signed by ten other organizations including Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Jubilee Campaign, and the North Korea Freedom Coalition.

Signatories called for Biden to prioritize the promotion of rights and freedoms in North Korea—issues, they argued, that are “too often relegated to a distant tertiary status” while security issues such as counter-proliferation rise to the fore alone.

The letter calls for South Korea to take an increased role in the fight for human rights in North Korea, after some indications that South Korea may be bending to North Korean pressure rather than exerting pressure itself.  It also urges increased action on North Korean human rights both at the UN level and in any future bilateral meetings with North Korea. “For the United States, human rights must be part of diplomatic negotiations.”

Religious freedom advocates around the world have long called attention to the atrocities taking place in North Korea. Currently led by Kim Jong-un, the authoritarian regime aggressively prosecutes anyone deemed to be working against the interests of the state. Actions as simple as praying, talking about the Bible, and sharing one’s faith can lead to beatings, years of imprisonment, and even torture.

A recent UN report highlights several areas of particular concern, including extremely harsh conditions in the country’s prison system and the torture of prisoners of conscience. The North Korean government, the report states, “is engaged in a systematic and widespread attack against people considered a threat to the country’s political system and leadership, including people who practise [sic] religion.” As part of this attack, people exercising their religion are “systematically imprisoned without due process and are subjected to harsh treatment for exercising basic human rights.”

In addition to the targeting of Christians and members of other religious groups, research indicates that pregnant prisoners receive particularly harsh treatment, including being forced to perform hard labor and being subjected to forced abortions. In several instances, guards made mothers watch or participate in the killing of their own children.

It is essential that the international community, including South Korea, band together to push for the advancement of human rights in North Korea. North Korea’s many innocent civilians deserve no less.

For interviews, please contact Alison Garcia: [email protected].