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Kerry calls for immediate shutdown of N. Korea's gulags

2014/08/14 09:44

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry strongly urged North Korea Wednesday to immediately shut down its political prison camps, saying that such violations of human rights have "no place in the 21st century."

   Kerry made the remark in his Asia policy address at the East-West Center in Hawaii as he wrapped up a swing through the Asia-Pacific region that included stops in Myanmar for annual talks with Southeast Asian and other nations, and Australia for annual security talks.

Kerry said the North's proliferation activities "pose a very serious threat to the United States, the region and the world" and the U.S. is taking steps to deter and defend against North Korea's pursuit of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

"But make no mistake, we are also speaking out about the horrific human rights situation," Kerry said. "We strongly supported the extraordinary United Nation's investigation this year that revealed other grotesque cruelty of North Korea's system of labor camps and executions.

"Such deprivation of human dignity just has no place in the 21st century. North Korea's gulags should be shut down, not tomorrow, not next week, but now, and we will continue to speak out on this topic," he said.

Kerry also said that the U.S. "will continue to promote human rights and democracy in Asia without arrogance but also without apology."

   North Korea has long been labeled one of the worst human rights violators in the world. The communist regime does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps across the nation and keeps tight control over outside information.

In February, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry issued a report on the North's human rights records after a year-long probe. The report said North Korean leaders are responsible for "widespread, systematic and gross" violations of human rights.

It also said the International Criminal Court should handle North Korea's "crimes against humanity."

   North Korea has bristled at any talk of its human rights conditions, calling it a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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