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North Korean diplomats storm out of UN rights meeting

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. AFP

North Korean diplomats on Thursday stormed out of a UN conference on human rights after lashing out at the United States for inviting three defectors to speak at the event.


Pyongyang envoy Ri Song Chol interrupted the conference when he tried to deliver a statement following the poignant testimony of Joseph Kim who fled North Korea as an orphaned, homeless and hungry teenager.

US Ambassador Samantha Power ordered UN staff to turn off the North Korean diplomat’s microphone and security guards were dispatched to the conference room at UN headquarters.

The three diplomats then stood up and left the room telling reporters that they were denied the opportunity to speak as a UN member-state.

Ri accused the United States of “murdering innocent black people” and pointed to the deaths of African Americans in Baltimore and Ferguson as proof that the US “is the true kingpin of human rights violations.”

He blasted the event as a “one-sided political drama.”

Power in turn accused the North Koreans of “bullying,” saying that they were told beforehand that they would have an opportunity to speak.

“The delegation chose instead to try to drown out the testimony of these panelists,” she said.

North Korea’s ‘darkest corners’

The conference opened with testimony from Joseph Kim who watched his father die of starvation at the age of 12.

His mother was sent to a prison labor camp for traveling to China where she had sent his sister in the hope that she would be spared from hardship.

Kim eventually fled to China and arrived in the United States eight years ago as a refugee.

At the age of 10, Jay Jo fled to China with her mother following the death of her grandmother, who starved while digging for grass.

She recounted how her father was sent to a prison camp for scavenging for food and died there.

Kim appealed to delegates to “continue lending an ear to the story of the North Korean people” so that “we can bring light to the darkest corners of the world’s most isolated country.”

In her remarks, Power said “the true weapon of mass destruction inside North Korea is the treatment of its people and the destruction of those lives.”

The UN Security Council in December held its first-ever meeting on the human rights crisis in North Korea despite objections from China, which said the matter should be discussed in other UN settings.

The General Assembly last year adopted a resolution calling on the Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The 15-member council however has yet to follow up on the assembly’s resolution and call for an ICC probe of rights violations in North Korea.

Diplomats have said such a move is widely expected to be vetoed by China, North Korea’s ally.


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