November 02, 2022

Long Overdue Paradigm Shift: A Human Rights up Front Approach toward North Korea

By Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director

November 2, 2022

View of the Yeonggeumjeong Pavilion in Sokcho, on South Korea's east coast

Today, November 2, North Korea launched 25 missiles. A ballistic missile landed just 40 miles (60 km) east of South Korea’s port town of Sokcho. North Korea perpetrated this massive provocation barely four days after the Itaewon tragedy that took the lives of 156 young people from South Korea, the United States, Australia, Austria, China, France, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Instead of condolences and messages of solidarity, North Korea chose to threaten South Korea’s peace and security with its largest missile salvo ever.

To procure the hard currency needed to develop its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, North Korea oppresses and exploits its own people at home and abroad. According to the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), North Korea has spent up to $1.6 billion developing nuclear weapons, including six nuclear tests, since the 1970s. Those funds would have sufficed to buy up to 2.05 million tons of rice or 4.1 million tons of corn, the equivalent of four years’ worth of food for the entire North Korean population. According to KIDA, North Korea has spent 3 to 5 million dollars on short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), 10 to 15 million dollars on medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), and 20 to 30 million dollars on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). North Korea spends about 2 percent of its $33.5 billion GDP on its missile launches.

For thirty years, negotiations with North Korea and North Korea policy have sacrificed human rights for the sake of addressing nuclear weapons, missiles, and other military and security issues. Both the North Korean nuclear and missile programs have thrived. Sidelining human rights to appease the North Korean regime is not the answer, but a fundamental flaw in North Korea policy.

Now is the time for a long overdue paradigm shift in addressing North Korea, an approach that places the human rights and human security of the North Korean people front and center. A "Human Rights up Front" approach toward North Korea would require: international access to North Korean political prison camps and other detention facilities; transparency and the ability to conduct unimpeded in-country fact-finding human rights and humanitarian missions; and providing humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable groups, in particular children, women, the elderly, and people in detention.


NK Cantab said...

Few (like Mr. Scarlatoiu) have argued rather consistently through the years that human rights must be given more if not equal weight. In hindsight that approach may have been the smartest one. It pains me to think about the decades and valuable resources (not to mention human lives) wasted on all the wishful shenanigans. Absolutely tragic.