March 20-21, 2009 – Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
Venue: Hyatt Hotel 123 Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia
Organizers: Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, The Australian Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
250 delegates from Australia and overseas attended the opening of the 9th international conference on human rights in North Korea at Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt Hotel (20 March), opened by Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith (click here). Carl Gershman, the Chair of the National Endowment for Democracy gave an overview of the campaign for human rights in North Korea to the opening of the conference. (click here).
Co-orginsers of the Conference, Michael Danby, Chair of the Commonwealth Parliament’s sub comittee on Foreign Affairs and Prof. Won of the Citizens’ Alliance told an Australia wide radio audience (click here) what had emerged at the Conference about the most recent developments on human rights in North Korea.
Senator Michael Forshaw Chairman of the JSCFADT chaired an intensive session for international experts at the Australian Insitute of International Affairs that included several South Korean, Japanese and Australian MPs.
Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan drilled down into the horrors of the 300 000 prisoners in Kim Jong-Il’s labour camps (The Australian 31/3 click here) and Thailand’s leading reporter Kavi Chongkittavorn attended and reported on the conference in Bankok’s leading newspaper The Nation (click here).
Delegates to the conference were taken aback by UN Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn’s powerful summary of his official report just delivered in Geneva derscribing the siutation of human rights in North Korea (for a Radio Australia interview with Mr Vitit click here).
Finally in a sign that the conference must have achieved some good, its aims were denounced by the DPRK newsagency (click here). The conference was also covered on SBS News (click here), and ABC International which will be put on Youtube soon.
The ninth International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees in Melbourne on Friday accused North Korea of grave abuses and discussed ways to improve the situation. The conference was organized jointly by the South Korean Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights and the Australian Committee for Human Rights in North Korea under the joint sponsorship of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, and the Chosun Ilbo.
One participant pointed out that international humanitarian aid to the North has not been properly distributed to the North Korean residents, children in particular. Joanna Hosaniak, the senior program officer for international cooperation for CANKHR, interviewed 40 North Korean children and juveniles and 10 adults in the South between 2001 and 2008 and heard that none of them had received rice sent by South Korea or the international community during this period. They said they had instead seen grain sacks marked “Republic of Korea,” “UN,” or “Red Cross” sold on the market.
They said food supplied by South Korea is given to the military on a priority basis and the rest sold to moneyed military officers or Party members in the market. Only a small amount of food is distributed to the general public at slightly lower than the market price.
Some 2.55 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of corn were delivered to the North during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. None of the 50 said they had either received or seen meat or canned fish, which the UN had supplied to the North for children and pregnant women, between 2001 and 2007.
The Conference also screened a documentary “On the Border”, which was produced by the Chosun Ilbo on North Korean refugees and has recently won the Prize award in the English-language TV category at the 13th Annual Human Rights Press Awards.