Fiona Bruce MP, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, has condemned the North Korean government’s purging of its Minister of the Peoples’ Armed Forces, Hyon Yong-chol, describing it as “yet another example of a total disregard for human life in North Korea”.
North Korea sentenced and purged Hyon Yong-chol on charges of treason on April 30th 2015, according to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service. The purging of Hyon is the latest in a string of high-level purges which stretch back to before the killing of Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-taek. It is not known whether Hyon was offered legal representation or a right of appeal.
Fiona said: “We can read two things into the reported purging of yet another high-profile elite in North Korea. Firstly, that continued purges in Pyongyang indicate that threats and fissures, rather than instability, exist in the internal psychology of the North Korean political system. Marketisation, the collapse of the state economy, and increasing private interactions with the outside world are threatening the internal legitimacy of North Korea’s rulers. Their system is sustained through total control of a narrative — and it is likely that Hyon threatened this narrative. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea (APPG) has been vocal on the protection of ordinary North Korean citizens; the preservation of life and liberty, and the rule of law, a concept unheard of in North Korea for generations, should transcend every class and political division.”
“Secondly, it is abundantly clear that the North Korean leadership care very little for human life. They have clearly taken a calculated risk by purging Hyon in a bid to regain physical and ideological control over their dictatorship. But if the life of an elite is deemed worthless and expendable, what of the lives of those North Koreans that the government officially classifies as ‘hostile’ in its Songbun system?”
In Parliamentary questions, Fiona has repeatedly urged the UK Government to reconsider how it engages the North Korean government and to pursue a human rights-centred foreign policy. An unprecedented United Nations Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in North Korea, which released its report in February 2014, found the international community’s response to North Korea’s human rights crisis to be inadequate and called upon states to implement a series of recommendations — including the establishment of a human rights contact group and the broadcasting of impartial and free information into North Korea. Following a Conference on improving human rights in North Korea which was held in the UK Parliament earlier this year, Fiona calls upon the international community reassess whom to engage with in North Korea and how, so that transformative change can come to the country.