North Korea has reacted fiercely to a scathing new report of human rights abuses, threatening to take “tougher countermeasures” against the United States after Washington stated the communist country is guilty of some of the most grievous human rights violations on the planet.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, which declared North Korea’s human rights record to be “among the worst in the world.” The report cites defector accounts of “extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, and torture,” along with “denial of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, movement, and worker rights.”
The report declared that Pyongyang commits “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations,” and that those violations constitute “crimes against humanity.”
In response, a North Korean Foreign Ministry representative released a statement snubbing America, saying that “the U.S. is dreaming a foolish dream that any ‘change’ would take place in the DPRK (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).”
“Now that the U.S. persists in the hostile policy toward the DPRK, it will take tougher countermeasures,” the statement continues.
North Korea’s official news agency KCNA upped the rhetoric further, saying that the United States “will see the DPRK’s military muscle increasing in every way and its people enjoying a happy life under socialism.”
“The world will clearly see how the DPRK will smash the U.S. moves for isolating and stifling it,” it said.
Pyongyang also called the report a “sinister attempt” to bring down the North Korean government under the guise of defending human rights.
Coincidentally, the release of the report concurred with the end of North Korea’s annual “Struggle against American Imperialism” month.
This week, more than 100,000 people took to the streets of Pyongyang to take part in the closing ceremony of the month-long series of anti-U.S. speeches and demonstrations.
This year’s ceremony fell on the 65th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, and protesters headed to the capital’s Kim Il Sung Stadium, where they decried the evils of the United States, waving banners with anti-American slogans.
“We appeal to the world to turn out in the worldwide anti-U.S. struggle to dismember the gangster U.S. imperialists,” said the statement run by the government’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The state media outlet continued, “Asia should turn out to cut off the U.S. right hand, Africa should rise up to cut off the U.S. left land, the Mid-east has to cut off the U.S. ankles and Europe has to cut off the U.S. neck.”
“The only way for the U.S. to take is to make apology before the army and people of the DPRK and hoist a white flag,” it said.
North Korea has already accused the United States of plotting with regional allies to overthrow its government, declaring that it will not relinquish its nuclear deterrence unless America ends its hostile policy toward North Korea and disbands the U.S.-led UN command post in South Korea.
In recent days, Pyongyang has increased its censorship of information, cracking down on the use of faster Internet and telephone lines by foreign residents, as well as on the use and distribution of materials for data storage, such as disks, pen drives and external hard drives. The Foreign Ministry has warned non-North Korean residents not to share “undesirable content” coming from the outside with citizens.
North Korea keeps an iron grip on its internal media outlets and does all in its power to limit access to foreign sources of information that could present a different picture of reality from the official version.
“We consider these practices as a serious problem, directly connected to state security,” said a note distributed Friday and addressed to diplomatic and international missions in the country.
Pyongyang has announced it will step up checks at points of access to the country and in places where tourists and expatriates tend to cluster.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.