Monday, January 07, 2008

Doing More for North Korean Human Rights

This is based on the discussion over at One Free Korea. It started with a report by Anti-Slavery and the comment that this was a rare piece of work from the NGO Community. There has been some discussion on why there are not so many NGOs working on human rights in North Korea.

I can't agree with the idea of anti-US leftist groups not wanting to denounce an anti-US regime. Any NGO as anti-US as that is probably not worth paying attention to. I suspect that there are diverse reasons for not taking up human rights in North Korea. The nuclear issue, lack of information (this is less of an excuse these days), and the fact that most NGOs focus on local issues come to mind as probable reasons. At the international level, Anti-Slavery, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Amnesty International all take up North Korea human rights issues. To suggest that the 'human rights industry' is backing away from this issue, is somewhat unfounded.

Human rights in North Korea does not get the kind of media and public attention that it deserves, given the scale of the atrocities. But I would re-iterate the reasons given above and add lack of access to the list. Regions like Darfur where you have do-good celebs popping in like alcoholics to the pub is pretty effective in getting public attention. You can look also at the Congo and other regions in desperate need of worldwide attention and action to see that the scale of human rights atrocities does not guarantee public sympathy.

Right-wing groups DO take the lead on human rights in North Korea. But I see little difference between what they do and what left-wing groups would be doing if they took the lead. There host conferences (on week days no less!), hold protests, write letters, lobby governments, etc. Human Rights in North Korea is (or should be) a concern for all of us. The recommendations for bringing about change is, and should be, a matter for debate and discussion. There is no reason why different groups can't be doing different things based on what they think is the right approach.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui