A group of North Korean diplomats nearly prevented the conclusion of a United Nations panel on human rights in the rogue nation Thursday, as one man refused to stop talking over dissidents giving witness to the horrors of the Kim Jong-Un regime until security was called to remove him.
The panel– consisting of South Korea, U.S., and North Korean diplomats convened to listen to witness testimonies of North Korean defectors– ran smoothly until North Korean representative Ri Song Chol chose to talk over the panel, following the testimony of defector Joseph Kim. Reuters notes that United States Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power had explicitly told the North Korean group that they would get a chance to speak after the audience heard the testimonies of the defectors, but Ri refused to wait.
Ri delivered a six-minute unauthorized statement of which little could be heard, as Power refused to allow his microphone to be turned on. She did allow him to speak, however, lamenting, “I think the audience would agree that it is better to let the DPRK speak, as it is a self-discrediting exercise.”
The little that could be understood were accusations that the United States has a record of “murdering innocent black people”– a reference, perhaps, to the protests ongoing in Baltimore, Maryland– and that his accusations were “just the bit of icebergs [sic] of the human rights violations committed in the US.” The Telegraph notes that he described the entire panel as a “one-sided political drama.”
Video of the event shows the defectors convened defiantly shouting over Ri’s unofficial remarks, statements variously translated as “Shut up!”, ”Free North Korea!”, and ”Down with Kim Jong Un!”
Following the event, South Korean Ambassador Oh Joon lamented that, before the interruption, “we thought there was a glimmer of hope,” and that he was “disappointed” in North Korea.
The same day of the panel, Rodong Sinmun, the North Korean state newspaper, ran an article titled “U.S. is Worst Human Rights Abuser.” The article proclaims that “the latest murder of the black man by a white policeman goes to clearly prove that the U.S. is the worst tundra of human rights in the world,” citing “white policeman mercilessly killed a defenseless black man in South Carolina State of the U.S.” (the Walter Scott case, presumably). North Korea has previously referred to the United States in state media as “a living hell” and claimed its human rights abuses far surpass those of the Kim regime, which they claim do not exist due to North Korea’s “most advantageous” human rights system.
North Korean defectors who have made it to the West tell stories of horror in their home countries. During an address in Ireland, refugee Yeonmi Park described watching her friend’s mother be executed in her public square when she was a child for watching a James Bond film, and becoming accustomed to the starving people lining the streets. Park compares North Korea to the Holocaust. Others describe watching their family publicly executed for acts such as praying.
A United Nations report released in February 2014 attested that up to 120,000 people are being kept in squalor at labor camp institutions nationwide, where they are tortured, starved, or executed.