UN Rapporteur focuses on North Korean women, girls rights

Seoul, Sep 12 (EFE).- The United Nations rapporteur for the situation of Human Rights in North Korea said Tuesday that during her first year in office she has tried to put special emphasis on the country’s women and girls, whose situation is especially worrying.

“I have focused on the human rights of women and girls because they are disproportionately affected by human rights violations,” Elizabeth Salmon said at a press conference in Seoul.

Salmon chaired a conference on this earlier this year involving UN experts, North Koreans who fled the country and civil organizations and in which they managed to highlight a series of areas needing attention. These included charges and continuous abuses North Korean women endure in the “jangmadang” (black markets), where women play a basic role.

Also the situations endured by women who are detained in North Korea, and especially those who are repatriated after having fled the country, access to basic reproductive and sexual health services or simply the physical, psychological and sexual violence North Korean women endure daily.

The Peruvian lawyer, who has met in recent days in Seoul with Foreign Affairs and Unification Ministers Park Jin and Kim Yung-ho, respectively, and people who fled North Korea, spoke of the importance of breaking “the isolation impasse” in which the country has been plunged since the failure of dialogue with the United States in 2019 and the Covid-19 outbreak.

Salmon welcomed the recent partial reopening of borders of the country, which for more than three years and until this summer has prevented the entry of people from abroad.

“I hope (North Korea) will resume its engagement with the international community and the UN human rights mechanisms. The return of the UN Country Team to (North Korea) is an urgent priority,” she said.

Salmon said she was “extremely concerned about the imminent risk of repatriation of North Koreans detained in other countries” now that Pyongyang has partially reopened its borders.

Most North Koreans who flee their country do so through China, which does not consider them as refugees but as “economic migrants,” so it forcibly repatriates them if it finds them in its territory.

The 2014 Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea said that “almost all returnees are subjected to inhumane acts” as they are considered “a threat to the political system and leadership” of the regime, which wants to prevent the country from “having contact with the outside world.”

Salmon, a doctor in international law from the University of Seville and the first woman to hold this position created in 2004, will present her second annual report to the UN General Assembly in October. EFE


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