(LEAD) U.N. report urges N. Korea to stop crackdowns on market activities
(ATTN: UPDATES with comments from press conference in paras 5-7; ADDS photo; minor edits, byline)
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) -- A new U.N. human rights report called on North Korea to stop crackdowns on market activities to ensure an adequate standard of living, saying that 75 percent of North Koreans are estimated to depend on such commercial transactions for survival.
The Seoul bureau of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released the report, titled "The price is rights: The violation of the right to an adequate standard of living in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," on Tuesday, stressing that engaging in market activities has become an "essential means for survival" for North Koreans in the face of the collapse of a state distribution system.
"However, when people try to engage in rudimentary market activity, they face arrest and detention, including for travelling within the country, for which a permit is required," the OHCHR said in a statement. "This situation invariably leads to a series of further serious human rights violations, due to absence of rule of law and due process guarantees."
Such a threat of arrest and punishment results in more power for state officials, making more people bribe them to avoid detention, it added.
"North Korean people work at the market for only one reason, to survive," 27-year-old defector Ju Chan-yang said during a press conference in Seoul. "North Korea is a distribution-based country, but it would not recognize that that system has been paralyzed."
North Korea has "neither sought to modify a failed public system, nor helped to establish a functional and legal private sector to alleviate the economic destitution facing much of the population," the U.N. office said.
"Our recommendation is to create a more secure environment where people cannot be prosecuted for such activities," Daniel Collinge, a Human Rights Officer at the Seoul office, said.
Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said "people must not be arrested, detained, prosecuted or subjected to extortion simply for trying to acquire an adequate standard of living."
U.N. agencies estimate that around 10.9 million people, or over 43 percent of the total population, are undernourished and suffer from food insecurity in North Korea, according to the OHCHR report.
Despite such failure to meet an adequate standard of living, "huge resources continue to be directed towards military spending" in North Korea, it added.
The latest report was based on 214 interviews with North Korean defectors, primarily from the country's northeastern provinces, conducted in 2017 and 2018.
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