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North Korea blames sanctions for child rights abuses

By
Elizabeth Shim
North Korean children perform at the Mangyondae School Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, in April. North Korea is denying child abuse allegations this week at a U.N. convention in Geneva. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA
North Korean children perform at the Mangyondae School Children's Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, in April. North Korea is denying child abuse allegations this week at a U.N. convention in Geneva. File Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- North Korea blamed economic sanctions against the country for child rights abuses, following a statement from independent experts at a United Nations panel addressing alleged forced child labor and human trafficking in North Korea.

North Korean Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Han Tae Song said "persistent" and "vicious" sanctions against the Kim Jong Un regime are responsible for the violation of North Korean children's rights, Japan's NHK reported.

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North Korea joined the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.

Pyongyang's envoys have consistently defended the country's human rights record and have said the country's policies do not violate child rights.

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Han said North Korea experiences so few problems in the area of child rights, North Korea does not need to collect data on the issue, according to NHK.

An officer with Amnesty International told the Japanese television network the impact economic sanctions are having on North Korea does not mean the country can neglect human rights.

Human Rights Watch, one of several international organizations advocating for improved monitoring of rights in North Korea, said in a statement issued Wednesday the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child should "press the North Korean government to protect children who are victims of sexual abuse and harassment."

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HRW said the North Korean government claims no one has been punished since 2008 for raping or sexually abusing or exploiting a child because "such acts are inconceivable for the people in [North Korea] who regard such acts as the most disgraceful."

The group said there have been cases where sexual abuse goes unreported by victims, including girls, who face stigmatization if the crimes are reported.

North Korean refugees say it is "unremarkable" to experience gender-based violence, according to HRW.

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