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San Diego Researcher Reacts To Damning North Korea Report

Credit: Korean Central News Agency

Above: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a gun during an artillery firing drill of the Korean People's Army.

"The level of detail in the report is really quite staggering," said Stephan Haggard, professor of Korea-Pacific Studies at UC San Diego.

The world must act. That’s the conclusion of a 400-page report on North Korea, compiled by a United Nations panel during a year-long inquiry.

Testimony from defectors include women who said they were forced to drown their babies, children imprisoned from birth and starved and families tortured for watching foreign soap operas. The panel held public hearings in Tokyo, London, San Francisco and Seoul, South Korea.

"The level of detail in the report is really quite staggering," said Stephan Haggard, professor of Korea-Pacific Studies at UC San Diego, who has written extensively on famine and the political economy in North Korea.

"My colleague and I, Marcus Noland, we’ve done work on the food situation and famine, but there’s been work on the prison camps, there’s been work on discrimination, there’s been work on the use of food -- so there are a variety of components of the human rights picture which have now been pulled together in one place," explained Haggard, "and I think that’s what’s distinctive about the report."

Haggard said one important detail is that China, the North's main ally, might be aiding and abetting the crimes.

"Refugees that cross into China are not treated as refugees by the Chinese government, and they are turned back to North Korea," said Haggard.

Haggard said some of the documented prison camp abuses and murders occurred when refugees were rejected by China.

The U.N. panel issued a notice to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that he may be personally held liable in court for crimes against humanity committed by leaders under his direct control.

Haggard said those accusations make the report hard to ignore.

"Because this isn’t just a U.S. issue as the north Koreans have argued," said Haggard. "The European countries and developing countries' democracies have also been supportive of this investigation – so this is not something which was launched or driven solely by the United States and South Korea and Japan."

Haggard said an important reaction is going to come from Europe.

"Because it’s going to be harder for the North Koreans to ignore what the Europeans choose to do if they do something," said Haggard. "We don’t have many trade relations or investment relations because of the various sanctions that have been place on North Korea, but a number of them have recognized North Korea."

The U.N. panel will present its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 17.

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