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UCSB Professor Comments On North Korean Human Rights Violations

By Victoria Sanchez, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
Published On: Feb 18 2014 08:20:10 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 18 2014 08:25:33 PM CST

UCSB Professor Comments On North Korean Human Rights Violations

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

A more than 400 page report from the United Nations details crimes against humanity in North Korea.

The report compares the North Korean Leaders to the Nazi regime. Last March, the Human Rights Council started investigating widespread violations in North Korea.

Professor Mark Juergensmeyer, of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at UCSB, traveled to North Korea in the 1990s.

"I met with government people and some of the government people were very annoyed that the American's were there. You could clearly see the tension between the two groups of officials," he said.

In 1993, Juergensmeyer and colleagues arrived in Pyongyang. He took home video of his trip, and although it is grainy footage now, it shows images rarely seen.

"I don't think anything has changed," he said.

There isn't much of a difference between the images Juergensmeyer took to what we see now or the oppressive government.

The United Nations released a year-long investigation documenting, in gruesome detail, the prison camps of the country.

"The commission of inquiry has unanimously come to the conclusion that there is abundant evidence of great wrongs of this kind," said Michael Kirby, the chair of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Sexual abuse, forced abortions, it's horrible. Starvation prison conditions. There's no question these are hideous conditions and there's no doubt that they are going on," said Juergensmeyer.

Since the UN was not allowed inside North Korea, the International Criminal Court interviewed hundreds of former prisoners and other witnesses.

One woman recalled a prison guard forcing a new mother to drown her own child.

"The mother, with her shaking hands, she picked up the baby and she put the baby face down in the water," said Jee Heon, a prison camp survivor.

"What the UN has documented is pretty awful. There's no question about it," said Juergensmeyer.

But the question that does remain is what can be done to stop the violations?

"To take this on and say, 'Alright, we need to stop these abuses, we have to invade Pyongyang,' Well you know what we are talking about, we're talking about another war. As much as we might hate the excesses of power of Kim Jong-un, and rightly feel sympathy for the horrible victims of this autocratic regime, at the moment, we are really powerless to act," said Juergensmeyer.

The United Nations cannot force North Korea to change its ways but they have outlined 19 recommendations. Those include political reforms that would allow free elections, acknowledge the prison camps that the leaders say do not exist and end all human rights violations.

To read the full United Nations report, click here.

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