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North Korea: USCIRF Urges Religious Freedom Be Included in UN Security Council Human Rights Meeting


December 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends the United States and eight other countries for requesting a meeting of the UN Security Council, now scheduled for December 10, to resume talks on human rights in North Korea.  USCIRF encourages the Council to include religious freedom in these discussions.  North Korea’s deplorable record on human rights and religious freedom prompted the Security Council to hold similar discussions one year ago, the first time the Council formally deliberated the country’s myriad human rights violations.  Given no improvements, the Security Council’s attention to these abuses is needed now more than ever.

“North Korea’s human rights violations, including the denial of the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief, are both undeniable and indefensible.  USCIRF commends U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power for her strong support of calling out such abuses in the UN Security Council.  Raising these issues in the premier UN body responsible for international peace and security sends the North Korean government the necessary and high-level reminder that its human rights abuses are known, egregious, and that the world is watching,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George.

North Korea’s government severely restricts religious freedom and harshly punishes individuals attempting to practice their faith outside of the small number of officially recognized groups.  In fact, the February 2014 report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (COI) found “an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association.”

The UN’s Third Committee last month again overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging the Security Council to consider the COI’s recommendations, including North Korea’s referral to the International Criminal Court. The General Assembly is expected similarly to approve the resolution within a few weeks.  As president of the Security Council during December, the United States can draw attention to the COI report and work to generate support from UN Member States for the Security Council to revisit North Korea’s grave human rights abuses.

“The COI report has brought to light what many of us have known all along – that the depredations North Korea inflicts on its own people by denying them their human rights, including religious freedom, makes it one of the world’s most repressive regimes,” said Chairman George.  “In the face of such evil, the North Korean people need the international community’s support.”

USCIRF again recommended in 2015 that North Korea be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act for its particularly severe violations of religious freedom.  The State Department has designated North Korea as a CPC since 2001.  For more information, see the North Korea Chapter (in English and Korean) in USCIRF’s 2015 Annual Report. 

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0613.