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North Korea could be banned from sporting events, U.N. official says

Marzuki Darusman said ethically motivated sanctions could pressure Pyongyang to improve its human rights.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea marches in the athletes parade at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. U.S. and U.N. human rights experts on North Korea said on Thursday increased delivery of information and sporting bans could push Pyongyang to improve on its human rights record. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
North Korea marches in the athletes parade at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. U.S. and U.N. human rights experts on North Korea said on Thursday increased delivery of information and sporting bans could push Pyongyang to improve on its human rights record. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- North Korea could be banned from participating in international sporting events under a boycott similar to the embargo on sporting contacts placed on South Africa under apartheid.

Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations' special rapporteur on North Korea, said Thursday an effective means of pressuring North Korea on human rights would be to limit Pyongyang's participation in international games like the Olympics, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

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Darusman was speaking at a conference on North Korea human rights in Seoul, where U.S. North Korea human rights envoy Ambassador Robert King; Signe Poulsen, chief of the U.N. Human Rights Office in Seoul; and Park Hyung-joong, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification, offered opinions on human rights.

North Korea has been condemned for its political prison camps, forced labor and summary executions, and Seoul recently passed its first North Korea human rights act in September.

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The current pressure on Pyongyang may not be enough, however, to push it on the path of reform.

Darusman said ethically motivated sanctions like a sporting ban on North Korea is needed, given conditions in the country, adding such sanctions could become a greater worldwide movement.

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King said on Thursday there is a hunger for information in North Korea and that information must be delivered to the society, while suggesting improvements in human rights would come about as the international community continues to find ways to deliver media and data into the country.

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King also said the U.S. decision to place Kim Jong Un on a list of human-rights offenders was not an easy choice, but because Kim is responsible for numerous rights abuses the decision was made to place the North Korean leader under sanctions.

The situation in North Korea is motivating more people to leave the country, and, according to Park, a "mass exodus" could take place after the country reaches a certain threshold of defections.

On Wednesday a South Korean government source said a high-level state security official defected to the South in 2015.

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