Baroness Cox joins a debate on North Korea

December 23rd, 2013

Baroness Cox joins a debate on North Korea

On the 18th December, Baroness Cox joined a short debate on North Korea, raised by Lord Alton of Liverpool.

Lord Alton asked the British Government “what is their assessment of the impact of events in North Korea on security and human rights”.

His question followed the recent execution of Chang Song-thaek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and a powerful figure in the country. Baroness Warsi, replying on behalf of the Government, acknowledged North Korea’s grave human rights record and stated that they are closely monitoring the situation.

Lord Alton asked whether the Minister was aware that even before the execution of Chang Song-thaek, “there had been 80 public executions in seven cities on one day alone, the victims tied to stakes, hooded and killed by machine-gun fire”. Drawing on estimates from the United Nations and Amnesty International, he also highlighted that there are currently 300,000 people in North Korea’s expanding gulag network.

He drew attention to the report ‘An Unmet Need’, which “which calls for the extension of BBC World Service broadcasts to North Korea as a way of breaking the information blockade, of exercising soft power—as we have done so successfully in places such as Burma—of promoting democratic values and of challenging a regime that relies on Stalinist purges, show trials, the obliteration of opposition and a cruel reign of terror”. 

Baroness Warsi promised to read the report, but warned that the BBC was not currently persuaded that a Korean language service would be an effective use of its funds.

Baroness Cox asked what measures Her Majesty’s Government is taking to pursue a twin-track approach with North Korea, encompassing “accountability for crimes against humanity, which we have been hearing about this morning, alongside robust, critical, constructive engagement, in an attempt to open up that most closed nation and alleviate the suffering of the peoples of North Korea who have suffered at the hands of that regime, which acts with impunity, for so long?”

Baroness Warsi stated that they “are taking exactly that approach”; drawing attention to the UN commission of inquiry, co-sponsored by the UK, which began in March this year. She added: “We also engage with North Korea bilaterally. As I said earlier, North Korea does not engage in any form of meaningful dialogue on human rights, but it must be remembered that we are only one of 24 countries that have an embassy in North Korea. We have had a diplomatic relationship with it for the past 30 years, which provides us with some opportunity to engage with it.”

Lords Bach, Alderdice and Kinnock all pressed for information on whether the Prime Minister discussed North Korea during his visit to China. Baroness Warsi replied that she did not have details of whether the issue was raised.

To read the full text of the debate, click here.

To watch the debate, click here.

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