Sources: Yonsei Center for Human Liberty

Stephan Haggard (PIIE) and Kent Boydston (PIIE)



In 2014, Yonsei University established the Center for Human Liberty; Its explicit purpose is to maintain momentum on the Commission of Inquiry report on human rights abuses in North Korea and urge countries to play a more active role in holding the Kim regime accountable. Currently headed by Lee Jung-Hoon, the Center released its first Newsletter online this month, and it is full of useful information on the COI process.

Among the items flagged in the newsletter is a new piece at the Washington Quarterly by Lee Jung-Hoon and Joe Phillips titled “Drawing the Line: Combating Atrocities in North Korea” that provides an assessment of the Commission of Inquiry process and steps forward. Of particular interest are suggestions for alternative processes to holding the Kim regime accountable outside of a Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which we all know is not going to happen given the Chinese and Russian vetoes. Lee and Phillips argue that the Security Council could establish a special tribunal, a long-shot, or the General Assembly could establish a support, at least somewhat closer to imaginable. ICC member states could target North Korean forced labor abusers perpetrating crimes within their borders. Individual states could apply universal jurisdiction principles to try North Korean officials for crimes against humanity in their own jurisdictions. These suggestions are not all equally plausible, but they are certainly worth considering as options to ensure accountability.

Lee Jung-Hoon, the former ROK Ambassador for North Korean human rights is also part of the recently launched “Sages Group on North Korean Human Rights.” The group includes top practitioners in the North Korea human rights community, including the three members of the COI: Michael Kirby, Marzuki Darusman, and Sonja Biskero. Their task: to not only think about what to do but presumably to move various diplomatic processes forward, including possible dialogues.

But one of the most useful features is simply a monthly collation of links to news coverage on North Korean human rights issues from the world press. We wish the new Center well and are certainly subscribing ourselves. For those interested in getting the newsletter, you can email [email protected].

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