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2009/12/08 11:03 KST
U.N. council grills N. Korea over alleged rights abuse

GENEVA, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- Malnutrition is a "thing of the past," a North Korean official has claimed, amid accusations of human rights abuses including forced labor, malnourishment and torture, by the United Nations' rights council.

   Ri Tcheul, the head of the North Korea's mission in Geneva, made the comments before a session by the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC), where members raised issues pertaining to "serious human rights violations" and a lack of transparency and oversight.

   The U.N. and many global human rights agencies argue on the basis of defectors' testimony and other evidence that "systemic, widespread, and grave violations" are prevalent in North Korea.

   Lee Seong-joo from South Korea noted endless reports of infringement of basic human rights coming out of North Korea and advised the country to reduce the discrepancy between its constitution and the actual enforcement of the law.

   Wendy Hinton, New Zealand's representative to the 47-nation council, also pointed out that children and women in the communist country are severely malnourished because the military has priority in receiving food.

   Ri defended his country, arguing that limited arable land and natural disasters have prevented the government from being able to feed the entire population, and tried to assure the council that the situation was now under control.

   "The issue of serious malnutrition is a thing of the past ... We will in the near future meet the domestic need for food on our own."
Robert King, the recently appointed U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights noted the absence of transparency makes it hard to accept such assertations.

   "The lack of remedies or transparent accountability in dealing with allegations of abuse makes it difficult for foreign governments to accurately assess the human rights situation in the DPRK," said Robert King, the U.S. special envoy on North Korea's human rights issues.

   DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The World Food Program has said North Korea will need more than 800,000 tons of food aid from abroad to feed its 24 million people this year.