North Korea may be committing genocide, says a recently released report from international law firm Hogan Lovells. In accusing North Korea of genocide, the Hogan Lovells report goes beyond the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI), which found North Korea guilty of crimes against humanity but did not address genocide. Findings from both of these reports should evince a response from the international community.
To be guilty of genocide, a country must systematically discriminate against a subset of persons for ethnic, religious, or racial reasons. Genocide does not always result in death, but can encompass many forms of persecution, including bodily harm, displacement of children, significant deterioration of quality of life, and prevention of child-bearing.
The Hogan Lovells investigation found that North Korea was systematically abusing three vulnerable categories of persons: (1) the “hostile” class, or the lowest class of North Korean society under the Songbun categorization system; (2) religious groups, particularly Christians; and (3) those that are not ethnically Korean.
In his briefing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, South Korean Ambassador for Human Rights Jung-Hoon Lee noted that North Korea commits genocide through attrition and starvation. Hogan Lovells found that the “hostile” class was denied access to food, Christians were imprisoned in North Korea’s labor camps and systematically executed for evangelism, and forced abortions and infanticide were used against children of non-ethnic Koreans.
The charge of crimes against humanity alone guarantees that, at some point, members of the regime will be prosecuted for their involvement in atrocities. However, allegations of genocide add an additional layer of severity to charges against the regime of Kim Jong-un.
Satellite imagery and testimonies of defectors from North Korea have long documented the existence of prison camps, ongoing denial of basic liberties, and mass human rights abuses, but these two reports provide conclusive, undeniable evidence of the brutality of the North Korean leadership.
At an event at The Heritage Foundation, Ambassador Lee called for a global campaign to end North Korean human rights abuses:
Our generation must tackle [North Korea’s human rights abuses] urgently and collectively. The rest of the world ignored the evidence for too long. Now there is no excuse because now we know.… We must have the courage and the political will to confront the Pyongyang regime.… We need a global campaign like the one we saw with the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1980s.
Both the U.N. and Hogan Lovells reports provide recommendations and a blueprint for the international community to take action against North Korea. Hogan Lovells, in particular, recommends stricter sanctions, a move that is supported in a pending bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would tie sanctions directly to North Korea’s human rights violations.
The U.S. should lead the charge and call for increased sanctions against North Korea for the Kim regime’s continued violations of its citizen’s natural rights.