Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The U.N. Special Rapporteur on North Korea human rights said Friday the entire country is a prison and that he is particularly concerned about the rights of North Korean women.
Speaking at a news conference in Seoul, Tomas Ojea Quintana told reporters his top concerns are women's rights and the repatriation of defectors hiding in China, Asia Business Daily reported.
Quintana likened the country to a prison, quoting North Korean refugees he has interviewed in the course of his ongoing study of the human rights situation in the Kim Jong Un regime.
Ordinary North Koreans "without exception" are an exploited labor force and suffer rights abuses in the name of North Korean national development, Quintana said.
Not only do the majority of ordinary people lead difficult lives, they must cope with pervasive corruption that affect their lives in a system where their rights are not guaranteed, Quintana said.
The state distribution system has collapsed and the economic situation is very serious, the U.N. official said, adding he finds it "regrettable" North Korea has turned down his request to visit the country for inspections.
Quintana also made remarks on the reported defection of North Korea's former acting ambassador to Italy Jo Song Gil.
The U.N. official said that he knows Jo has not requested asylum in South Korea, following reports from Italian newspaper Il Messaggero Jo has likely already defected to the United States or Britain.
North Korea is one of the world's most impoverished countries, and the country's allocation of resources toward nuclear weapons development has been blamed for food and medical shortages in the country.
South Korea is addressing North Korean humanitarian issues with new plans to provide drugs, but a recent project to supply Tamiflu, an antiviral prescription drug used to treat influenza, has been postponed, Tongil News reported Friday.
Negotiations have not concluded on the matter between North and South, Seoul's unification ministry said, according to the report.