Improving the Substantive Human Rights of North Koreans

In light of the UK Government’s recent funding of economic and cultural initiatives for the DPRK, in a written question to the UK Government Lord Alton asked “whether any projects to improve the substantive human rights of North Koreans, rather than cultural, economic or humanitarian initiatives, are to be implemented; and whether such projects are being considered for North Korean refugees outside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

Responding on behalf of the UK Government, Lord Popat noted:

“It is not possible for the UK to carry out projects in the DPRK without the cooperation of the DPRK authorities. This has an impact on the type of projects we are able to support, although we have successfully taken forward projects in some areas of human rights, such as disability rights. In the Financial Year 2014/15 the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme is funding a project delivered by the Thomson Foundation titled ‘Inside Out: Working in North Korea to connect its journalists to the Internet world’, which aims to give North Korean journalists a greater understanding of freedom of expression by teaching them Internet skills. Our other engagement projects are about finding concrete ways to inform North Korean citizens about the UK and its values, so that in the long term they recognise the benefits of working with the outside world from which they are normally isolated.”

“Our Embassy in Seoul supports the North Korean refugee community through its “English for the Future” programme, which is funded with a mixture of FCO programme funds and corporate sponsorship. We also reserve one of our Chevening scholarships for this community. These programmes help new settlers tackle some of the barriers which can prevent their successful integration into South Korean society and improve their future prospects. The FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme has also previously funded projects with North Korean refugee groups in the Republic of Korea which are more directly related to human rights in the DPRK, such as documenting the effects of torture or producing a report on the rights of women. We remain open to funding similar projects in the future.”