DPR Korea: UN human rights expert meets refugees adjusting to new life

20 December 2006

An independent United Nations human rights expert on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has met refugees from the troubled country and visited a facility that helps them acclimatize to life in the Republic of Korea.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, issued a statement yesterday after wrapping up a five-day visit to the Republic of Korea, his second to that country since assuming the post in 2004.

Mr. Muntarbhorn met with some DPRK refugees and toured the Hanawon facility, where the refugees receive initial training to adapt to life in the ROK. He also held talks with Government officials, lawmakers, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society groups.

“He felt it a great privilege to meet them and to reflect their concerns in his work for the UN,” the statement said, adding that Seoul should continue its policy of accepting refugees from the DPRK and offering them help to integrate with the society.

The DPRK, which has declined to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur, continues to refuse to invite him to visit the North Asian nation.

In October, Mr. Muntarbhorn warned that international donors have cut drastically their amounts of food aid this year following the country’s reported nuclear test, leaving almost 2 million people without adequate calorific intake.

But in his statement he voiced hope that this week’s resumption of the six-party talks aimed at achieving a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula would resolve key issues and thus “contribute to the space” so that humanitarian progress can be made.

He also encouraged the DPRK and the ROK to maximize opportunities for family reunions and called on Pyongyang to “clarify and resolve effectively the long-standing problem of missing persons.”

Special Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity that received their mandate from the defunct UN Commission on Human Rights and now report to the recently established and enhanced Human Rights Council.


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