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North Korea

Abstract and Keywords

North Korea ranks among the least free societies in the world. The human rights situation inside the country has been described by the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn as sui generis (in its own category). In 2014, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea released a landmark report. In its detailed and well-written report, the Commission found that North Korea commits crimes against humanity. This chapter discusses the report from the perspective of the responsibility to protect (R2P).

Keywords: responsibility to protect, North Korea, UN Commission of Inquiry, genocide and crimes against humanity, responsibility of the international community

Although different human rights organizations have reported about human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea) since the early 1980s, academic research and policy-makers have neglected the situation for a long time and have focused relatively late on the question of whether the responsibility to protect (R2P) applies to North Korea. Even today, there are relatively few publications dealing with this important issue.1 In 2014, the report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea gave a new impetus on how to realize R2P and engage on human rights in the DPRK. In its report, the Commission described ‘a political system which has moved far from the ideals on which it claims to be founded’.2 The COI determined that crimes against humanity have been committed by the DPRK and that the North Korean regime had manifestly failed to protect the people of the DPRK. The situation in North Korea also triggers the responsibility of the United Nations and the international community to act. However, there are not many feasible options on how to implement R2P in North Korea due to political and strategic constraints. This chapter will address the topic in the following way. The first section explores the findings of the COI. The chapter then provides an overview of how North Korea and the international community have responded to the report. The final section addresses North Korea’s human rights violations through the lens of R2P.

Human Rights in the DPRK: The UN’s Commission of Inquiry

In spring 2014, the COI produced a landmark report on the human rights situation in the DPRK. The Commission had been established one year earlier by the UN Human Rights Council and mandated to ‘investigate the systematic, widespread, and grave (p. 826) violations … with a view to ensuring full accountability in particular for violations that may amount to crimes against humanity’.3 The findings were based on over 80 public hearings, 80 written submissions, and more than 240 confidential interviews. The Commission also used satellite images to confirm the existence of four political prison camps inside the DPRK. The Commission determined that crimes against humanity had been committed as a matter of ‘state policy’ and were still occurring in regard to six groups of victims: inmates of political prison camps; inmates of the ordinary prison system; religious believers and others considered to introduce subversive influences; persons who try to flee the country; starving populations; and persons from other countries who became victims of international abductions and enforced disappearances.4 The COI not only arrived at the conclusion that the human rights violations were without any parallel in the modern world, but its chairman, Australian Supreme Court judge, Justice Michael Kirby, found that they resembled those committed by Nazi Germany.5

The report described in great detail a totalitarian state that is characterized by 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’.6 Furthermore, the Commission criticized violations of the right to food, discrimination against women, and the almost complete lack of freedom of movement for North Korean citizens. The regime’s Songbun system is widely seen as the underlying cause of many of the human rights violations committed by the DPRK. Under this system,7 North Koreans are categorized into three main groups: loyal, wavering, or hostile. Within these three groups, there are 51 further classifications based on family background and occupation.8 According to Kim Soo-am, ‘family background is also a core factor in discriminating between people, allowing different levels of access to the right of food. The core elites who live in Pyongyang or other major cities still receive benefits in terms of medicine, and those who live in the ri [villages], the level of residents, they have very limited access to medical facilities, so the rights to enjoy healthy life [are] also discriminated and not guaranteed.’9

However, the most unspeakable atrocities appear to occur in the political and ordinary prison system. A major part of the report by the COI focused on the North Korean prison systems, where prisoners continue to be subjected to deliberate starvation, forced labour, execution, torture, rape, forced abortions, and infanticide. According to the COI, 80,000 to 120,000 individuals are currently held in the political prison camps. The Commission estimated that hundreds of thousands of inmates have died over the years.

The COI also examined the question whether the crime of genocide had been committed by the killing of hundreds of thousands of prison inmates due to their political opinion and state-assigned social class. Being aware that the Genocide Convention only applies to national, ethnical, racial, or religious groups, and therefore may not apply in this case, the Commission suggested that cases of politicide should also be covered by the Convention.10

Another focus of the report concerned the alleged abduction of more than 200,000 persons from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. The Commission concluded that the abduction cases amounted to crimes (p. 827) against humanity and they were ongoing violations ‘because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place’.11 According to the COI, major institutions of the DPRK state including the justice sector, the Korean People’s Army, and security agencies like the State Security Department and the Ministry of People’s Security were implicated in the commission of crimes against humanity and violations of human rights in general. These institutions were under the effective control of the Supreme Leader, the Worker’s Party of Korea, and the National Defence Commission.12 The report also implicated the People’s Republic of China. According to the COI, Beijing’s policy to repatriate North Korean escapees could amount to ‘aiding and abetting crimes against humanity’.13

The COI also provided a detailed roadmap on how the egregious human rights violations of North Korea should be addressed. Specifically referring to the international community’s responsibility to protect the Commission recommended, inter alia, that the Security Council should refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or establish an ad hoc tribunal for the DPRK.14 The Commission also advocated the adoption of targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity. Further recommendations included the need of a follow-up process; the establishment of a field-based structure which would help to ensure accountability for human rights violations; the formation of a human rights contact group of donors and countries with friendly relations to the DPRK as well as those states engaged in the Six-Party talks;15 the ratification of a final settlement of the Korean War; and the establishment of a Helsinki-style process. China and other states should respect the principle of non-refoulement and abstain from forcible repatriation. Furthermore, the COI suggested initiatives should focus on inter-Korean dialogue and people-to-people dialogue in the areas of culture, science, sports, good governance, and economic development. The Commission also provided a long list of recommendations to the DPRK and asked, among others, to undertake political and institutional reform; set up an independent and impartial judiciary; acknowledge the existence of human rights violations and end all human rights violations; provide humanitarian organizations and human rights monitors immediate access to political prison camps; reform the national criminal code and abolish ‘anti-state’ and ‘anti-people crimes’; guarantee freedom of religion; resolve issues related to abductions and disappearances; dismantle all prison camps; allow the establishment of an independent press; end discrimination; ensure gender equality; allow foreign travel; and ensure economic and social rights including the right to food.16

Responses to the Situation in North Korea

For human rights experts and North Korean specialists, the COI’s report did not reveal much new information about the human rights situation inside North Korea. Over (p. 828) the last decade, the United Nations, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, and the United States as well as human rights organizations have mobilized international and domestic laws to advance human rights in North Korea.17 Organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation for Human Rights in North Korea, and the US Committee for Human Rights in the DPRK have documented the human atrocities in great detail. A landmark study on the appalling conditions inside North Korea’s prison system had been released in 2003.18 Survivors from North Korea have reported about their life and misery inside the political prison and labour camps in the last decade.19 Even some of the proposals by the COI were not new to the international community, including the suggestion that the ICC may have jurisdiction over crimes committed by the North Korean leadership.20 However, the COI report was widely welcomed by most governments, with the exception of North Korea and China. Beijing criticized the report as ‘divorced from reality’.21 That was primarily because the report brought China’s policy of forcibly repatriating North Korean escapees to the attention of the international community. Earlier reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK had not explicitly addressed China’s treatment of North Korean escapees.22

These concerns notwithstanding, the report is widely regarded as a milestone because, for the first time, a body of the United Nations has categorized the North Korean human rights violations as crimes against humanity and applied the principle of R2P to the human rights situation in the DPRK. However, it needs to be stressed that the full extent of the crimes against humanity committed by North Korea remains obscure, since the COI, like the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, were not allowed access to the country.

Shortly after the publication of the COI report in March 2014, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 25/25 which condemned the dire human rights situation in the strongest terms and urged the General Assembly to submit the COI report to the Security Council for appropriate action referring North Korea to the ‘appropriate international criminal justice mechanism’.23 In April 2014, an informal Arria Briefing of the Security Council took place. Except for China and Russia, all members of the Security Council participated. The General Assembly also responded to the report by adopting several resolutions. The Third Committee of the General Assembly decided to submit the report to the Security Council and encouraged the Security Council to consider relevant recommendations including referral to the ICC.24 Another positive development was that the Security Council agreed (by procedural vote) to hold a formal meeting to discuss how to respond to the alleged violations of human rights by North Korea on 22 December 2014.25 During the historic debate Australia pointed out ‘that the magnitude of the violations depicted a situation that threatened to destabilize the region’.26 Likewise, the United States, represented by Samantha Power, followed the same argument because of the systematic and widespread nature of human rights violations. She called upon the DPRK to hold accountable those most responsible for human rights violations and recommended, (p. 829) among others, to dismantle the political prison camps and release all political prisoners.27 China and Russia objected to the inclusion of human rights in the DPRK in the Security Council’s agenda item on the grounds that it was not a matter of international peace and security. China, for example, emphasized that human rights issues should not be politicized and that ‘the additional focus would hamper the Council’s effort in peace and security there’.28

The DPRK also criticized the establishment of the Commission as an attempt to change the regime and labelled the COI ‘a marionette running here and there to represent the ill-minded purposes of string-pullers, such as the United States, Japan and the member states of the EU’.29 North Korea rejected the evidence as ‘fabricated and invented by hostile forces’.30 According to its own human rights report issued in September 2014 the people of North Korea ‘feel proud of the world’s most advantageous human rights system’.31 Furthermore, the regime labelled the defectors who had provided testimonies as ‘human scum’, ‘riffraffs’, ‘fugitives’, and ‘terrorists’.32 After the UN General Assembly had passed a resolution in November 2014 calling for North Korea’s leadership to be referred to the ICC, Pyongyang warned of ‘catastrophic consequences’.33 However, a short time after the publication of the report, there were some positive developments which suggested that the DPRK would enter into a human rights dialogue.34 In September 2014, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received a letter from the North Korean foreign minister indicating that his country would be willing to engage in a ‘human rights dialogue with countries not hostile to it’.35 One month later, the International Affairs Secretary of the North Korean Worker’s Party of Korea approached the European Union to begin a human rights dialogue.36 In addition, North Korea declared its intention to implement some of the recommendations suggested in the Universal Periodic Review. According to a North Korean official, ‘our society is a society without political strife or factions or political divisions—as a result we don’t have the political prisoner’.37 Although North Korea has never admitted the existence of gulags, officials confirmed the existence of ‘detention centres where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings’.38

Two important reports were published after the publication of the COI report. The Asan Institute for Policy Studies augmented the findings of the COI by publishing a report focusing on North Korea’s use of forced labourers overseas and those working in the country’s nuclear facilities. The two authors of the report Shin Chang-hoo and Go Myung-hun drew attention to the problem that these two groups had played an important role in bypassing the sanctions imposed by the UN and had been subjected to slavery and other violations of international law standards.39 They suggested incorporating the treatment of these two groups into the existing sanctions regime.40 According to a report by the Human Liberty Center prepared by international law firm Hogan Lovells, the human rights violations against the hostile class, followers of a religion, and those who are not ethnically Koreans might even amount to genocide.41 Based on the Human Liberty Report, the South Korean Ambassador for Human Rights Lee Jung-hoon argued in his briefing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the extreme discrimination against the hostile class amounted to genocide by attrition or starvation. He also (p. 830) argued the policy of forced abortion and infanticide against mixed-race children could also be viewed as genocide.42

North Korea and R2P

Some scholars have raised doubts or rejected the argument that R2P applies to North Korea because of the lack of feasible options for the international community to intervene. According to Stephen Walt of Harvard University, ‘the North Korean government has gone to great lengths to make it difficult to impossible for outsiders to interfere there, and using force to try to change their human rights behaviour would probably hurt as many people as it would help.’43 South Korean diplomats also appear to be reluctant to refer to North Korea when discussing R2P. When Ambassador Oh Joon presented his moving speech on the human rights situation of North Korea at the Security Council debate in December 2014, he expressed his great concern about the violations of human rights but did not mention R2P.44 According to an eminent International Relations scholar from South Korea, Lee Shin-wha, ‘outright basket advocacy for putting the North Korean case into the basket of the R2P should be avoided’ since the invocation of R2P by the Security Council could lead to the use of weapons of mass destruction or the launching of missiles. She also doubts that ‘the international community can take coercive measures and intervene in North Korea’s “internal matters” in the name of international justice or the R2P, since the UN Charter clearly indicates respect for “matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state”’.45 Even though Article 2(7) of the UN Charter states the principle of non-interference by the United Nations in the domestic affairs of states, it also observes that this should not prohibit enforcement measures taken by the Security Council under Chapter VII. Taking into account the development of human rights and the jus cogens status of international crimes including crimes against humanity and genocide, gross violators of human rights like the DPRK can no longer hide behind Article 2(7) of the UN Charter.

The argument that R2P is not applicable because of the lack of feasible options is also not convincing. R2P always applies when a state is committing one of the core crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity or failing to protect its population from these crimes. Based on the report by the COI, the reports by the two Special Rapporteurs on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK and reports by various human rights organizations, there appears to be a strong prima facie case that the DPRK has failed to protect its own citizens because North Korea committed and is still committing crimes against humanity. The key point is therefore not whether R2P applies in the present context but rather the debate should focus on the most effective and reasonable means of implementing R2P in regard to North Korea. The report by the COI referred to the responsibility of the international community that it should address the ongoing crimes against humanity by ‘using first and foremost appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means’.46 The Commission also noted that in (p. 831) the past the Security Council had limited its role in regard to the DPRK by only focusing on the denuclearization issue and military incidents. Indeed, historically policy-makers in and outside of South Korea have focused on the denuclearization of the peninsula and have warned that any attempt at raising human rights concerns would only hamper future talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. However, this view is hard to sustain. Treating human rights issues as taboo has not brought any positive results with North Korea in regard to its nuclear weapons programme. Any future Six-Party talks should therefore also include a debate on how to improve the human rights situation in the DPRK.

Arguably, R2P has already facilitated the mobilization of diplomatic and political pressure through the UN system including the above-mentioned reports by the COI and the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, the resolution by the UN Human Rights Council, and the debate at the Security Council in 2014. Arguably, the dire human rights situation in the DPRK should have attracted attention from the outside world much earlier because of the decades-long record of inhumanity. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK began reporting in 2004. It was not until 2006 that South Korea ceased abstaining in UN General Assembly resolutions condemning North Korea’s human rights record. The example of South Korea shows the dilemmas of finding the right approach to changing the human rights situation in North Korea. South Korean policy-makers in the past had great difficulties finding a consensus on how to deal with North Korea in general and in regard to human rights. Under the so-called ‘Sunshine Policy’47 developed by President Kim Dae-jung and later continued by President Roo Moo-hyun, progressive governments favoured a non-confrontational course towards the DPRK. They believed human rights changes could only be generated from inside and not imposed from outside North Korea. Conservative politicians in South Korea rejected the policy because they thought external pressure could also have an impact as in the case of South Africa.48 These differences still exist today and explain why the South Korean parliament could not decide on the so-called North Korean human rights bill which has been in limbo now for a decade.49

One year after the publication of the COI report, Michael Kirby pointed out that many of the recommendations have been overlooked.50 The Security Council did not adopt a new sanctions regime nor did it refer the situation in North Korea to the ICC. The DPRK did not make the report available to its own citizens and continued to not cooperate on human rights issues. Instead of political and institutional reforms, the same mechanisms and institutions of the state remained in place being responsible for widespread, systematic, and grave human rights violations in North Korea. The COI had also recommended people-to-people contact between North and South Korea, new multilateral arrangements, and the establishment of a human rights contact group including friends with close ties to the DPRK, all to no effect. Justice Kirby also raised the question of whether the veto wielded by the permanent members of the Security Council was appropriate in the context of grave human rights violations. In this case, the veto would most likely be used by China and probably Russia to prevent further measures against (p. 832) North Korea such as adopting sanctions or referring the case to the ICC. As early as 2004, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change proposed that members of the Security Council should ‘refrain from the use of the veto in cases of genocide and large scale human rights abuses’.51 More recently, Anne Peters has suggested that ‘once R2P is accepted as a full-fledged legal principle, the Security Council (and its members) would be under a legal obligation to authorize or to take sufficiently robust action in R2P situations’. In her assessment, an abusive veto should be viewed as illegal or as irrelevant with the consequence the veto could not block a Council decision.52 In 2014, France proposed that the permanent members consider a voluntary code of conduct limiting their use of the veto in situations characterized by genocide or crimes against humanity.

As noted earlier, the COI advocated the imposition of targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity. In general, so-called targeted or smart sanctions have a problematic record in improving target state compliance and targeted sanctions are already in place.53 The Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013. North Korea is also under multiple sanctions by the European Union and the United States.54 Despite UN sanctions, North Korea tested a submarine-launched missile in May 2015.55 It is therefore doubtful whether a new set of sanctions would lead to the improvement of human rights.

In the past, North Korea has not been supportive of R2P, because it fears that it could be abused to intervene in the internal affairs of small and weak states.56 North Korea needs to be reminded that R2P should not be misinterpreted as humanitarian intervention in sheep’s clothing. Many of the obligations arising from the R2P can be found in international conventions and customary international law. North Korea is also a state party to many of the relevant treaties regarding R2P, including the Genocide Convention; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.57 Many of the human rights violations appear to be also criminalized under the North Korean penal code.58

China could play an important role in improving the human rights situation in the DPRK. The People’s Republic of China shares a long border with North Korea. During the Security Council debate in December 2014 members of the Council could have argued that a mass of people fleeing North Korea and entering Chinese territory in case of turmoil could become a security concern for China. Currently, North Korean escapees found in China are returned to the DPRK and are subjected to harsh treatment after their return where they face severe punishment, ranging from imprisonment to torture and execution. China views the defectors as economic migrants and not as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention but its return policy is widely regarded as a violation of the principle on non-refoulement under international law.59 The 1951 Refugee Convention defines that a person is deemed a refugee when he or she is outside the country of origin because of ‘a well-founded fear of being persecuted’ in that (p. 833) country ‘for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’. China’s policy to return defectors also raises serious concern under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984 (UN Torture Convention). Pursuant to Article 3 of the UN Torture Convention ‘no State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.’ China’s policy to return defectors requires further discussion and debate at the level of the United Nations and through bilateral talks.

In theory, another option could be to address the humanitarian catastrophe through military intervention. The ICISS report which proposed the R2P does not exclude the possibility of military intervention for humanitarian protection but only ‘as an exceptional and extraordinary measure’ and if certain conditions have been met (just cause, legitimate authority, right intention, last resort, proportional means, and reasonable prospects).60 However, states agreed in 2005 that R2P would not include a unilateral right to humanitarian intervention and that all enforcement measures must be authorized by the UN Security Council. Significantly, no government has proposed this course of action.61

At a deeper level, the case of North Korea opens another chapter in the ‘peace versus justice debate’. On the one hand, the suffering of the North Korean people and the appalling human rights record of Kim Jong-un’s regime appear to justify the attempt of bringing the leadership of North Korea before the ICC; on the other hand, one could argue that the ICC would not have any deterrent effect and could harm the chances for incremental improvements through dialogue and negotiation. In general, scholars are divided on the question whether judicial intervention can prevent atrocities.62 Why should North Korea stop the violations of human rights knowing that a change of policy will not prevent a future prosecution because crimes against humanity have already been committed in the past? There seems to be no clear answer to the question of whether pursuing individual criminal justice against the North Korean leadership would be an obstacle or a condition for peace and reunification between North and South Korea. There are also difficult questions that arise in relation to transitional justice after the end of the authoritarian regime and the question of whether this would help or hinder the transition. Because of the gravity of the crimes committed, the COI rejected the idea of establishing a Truth Commission as in case of South Africa. Since great parts of the state apparatus are committing crimes against humanity, this raises the issue whether all those individuals involved in the system, including the prison guards of the political prisons, should be held individually accountable. The South Korean government has not developed a publicly available plan on how this problem might be addressed in the event of reunification. There is no explicit prohibition of amnesties under international law or a well-established rule of customary international law condemning amnesties but it might be argued that the prerogatives of justice might demand that the perpetrators of crimes against humanity be held to account.63

Realistically the avenues for engagement with the DPRK are quite limited. The regime in Pyongyang has used a system of isolation, suppression, and surveillance of its own (p. 834) people as a method of survival over the last 60 years. This is unlikely to change in the near future. The prospects for translating R2P from words to deeds in North Korea will remain a deeply challenging task. However, human rights dialogue should be continuously pursued and seen as a long-term process. The UN and the international community should revisit some of the recommendations proposed by the COI including the establishment of a human rights contact group. There should be a follow-up process and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights could become the focal point for dialogue. An important role could be played by the planned standing office in Seoul whose task would be to collect information about human rights violations committed by the DPRK.


According to some unconfirmed sources, the treatment of escapees has become less harsh after repatriation, the number of political prisoners has decreased, and there are even reports that China has sent escapees to South Korea instead of North Korea.64 This has prompted some to suggest that the human rights situation in the DPRK is improving.65 But despite these developments, there are few signs of any significant improvement of the lives of political prisoners or the human rights situation of ordinary North Koreans. A well-known expert on North Korean human rights issues, Roberta Cohen, has even expressed her fear that massacres could take place in North Korea’s political prisons.66 North Korea has flown underneath the radar of R2P scholarship for far too long. Some commentators may argue that the case of North Korea shows the current limitations of R2P, others may even conclude in their assessment that R2P is little more than a slogan without any real meaning or utility.67 However, realizing and implementing R2P will simply require more time. As pointed out by the chairman of the COI, Justice Kirby, the commitment of the international community should be that of ‘a marathon man, not that of a sprinter’.68


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                                                                                    (2.) Human Rights Council 2014, para. 1211.

                                                                                    (3.) Human Rights Council, A/HRC/RES/22/13 of 9 April 2013.

                                                                                    (4.) Human Rights Council 2014, para. 1024.

                                                                                    (7.) Human Rights Council 2014, paras. 265–354; Collins 2012.

                                                                                    (8.) Collins, p. 3.

                                                                                    (10.) On the blind spot of the Genocide Convention, see Schaack 1997.

                                                                                    (15.) The Six-Party talks include North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. The Six-Party talks are an attempt to find a peaceful resolution to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

                                                                                    (16.) Human Rights Council 2014, paras. 1220–5.

                                                                                    (17.) For an excellent overview on these attempts and how effective these efforts have been, see Goedde 2010. See also Kondoch 2012.

                                                                                    (22.) For an in-depth discussion, see Cohen 2014a.

                                                                                    (23.) See Human Rights Council Resolution, UN doc. A/HRC/25/L.17 of 26 March 2014.

                                                                                    (24.) The resolution by a vote of 111 yes to 19 no with 55 abstentions, see UN doc. GA A/C.3/69/L.28/Rev.1 of 18 November 2014.

                                                                                    (25.) See UN doc. S/PV.7353 of 22 December 2014. Even earlier, Australia, Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, and the United States had already argued that the human rights violations would ‘threaten to have a destabilizing impact on the region and the maintenance of international peace and security’. Letter dated 5 December 2014 from the representatives of Australia, Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2014/872 of 5 December 2014.

                                                                                    (26.) UN doc. S/PV.7353 of 22 December 2014.

                                                                                    (28.) ‘Security Council, in Divided Vote, Puts Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Situation on Agenda following Findings of Unspeakable Human Rights Abuses’, SC 11720, 7353rd Meeting, 22 December 2014.

                                                                                    (34.) For a more detailed summary and assessment of North Korea’s response to the COI report, see Hawk 2014.

                                                                                    (36.) ‘N. Korea Agrees to EU Human Rights Talks’, NK, 20 October 2014.

                                                                                    (39.) For a different view, see Lankov 2014.

                                                                                    (42.) Briefing by the Honorable Lee Jung-hoon 2014.

                                                                                    (45.) Lee 2012, p. 29.

                                                                                    (51.) United Nations 2004, para. 256.

                                                                                    (52.) Peters 2011, p. 3.

                                                                                    (57.) For a unique study on North Korea’s understanding of international human rights, see Song 2010.

                                                                                    (58.) See the country report on North Korea by the US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, available at: <>.

                                                                                    (59.) For further discussion, see Chan and Schloenhardt 2007.

                                                                                    (60.) ICISS 2001, paras 4.18 and 4.10–4.43

                                                                                    (61.) See in detail, Kondoch 2013, pp. 18–20.

                                                                                    (63.) Schabas 2012, pp. 173–98.

                                                                                    (68.) Kirby 2015, p. 4.