Recently, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) noticeably stepped up its foreign policy. This is evident from the number of high-level DPRK officials engaged in shuttle diplomacy that have completed a number of trips to Africa and states in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Russia has not been ignored: Kim Hyung Joon, the former Deputy Foreign Minister of North Korea, recently became the ambassador to Moscow. In an exclusive interview with TASS, Kim Hyung Joon evaluated U.S. foreign policy and spoke about the new period of relations between Moscow and Pyongyang.
How would you evaluate the current state of relations between our countries, especially in light of Foreign Minister Li Su Han’s visit to Russia?
Today it is possible to say that relations between our countries have reached a new period in their development, thanks to the concerted attention given by leaders of both nations.
Already at the beginning of this year there was an official visit from Kim Young Nam, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, who attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which was warmly received by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders. There are also questions of further expanding and raising the traditionally friendly relations between North Korea and Russia to a new level.
The deputy prime minister, who is also the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, the first deputy chairman of the council of the federation, the Minister for Far Eastern Development, and the president of Tatarstan all paid visits to North Korea, and the deputy chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the chief justice, and the minister of railroads were in Russia. There has been an active exchange of delegations at the highest level between our countries like never before.
This year, as our countries celebrated the 65th anniversary of the signing of the first intergovernmental agreement on economic and cultural cooperation, we are achieving real progress in our economic relations. The sixth session of the Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation was held; modernization of the railroad section from Rajin-Khasan and port of Rajin was completed, which is a pilot project for bilateral economic ties, and large scale projects in the field of railways, agriculture, energy, coal mining and so on have moved to an active stage of realization.
As part of the recent official visit by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Su Yong, talks were held with the deputy prime minister and presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, the Minister for Far Eastern Development, and other high-level representatives of the Russian government. Trips were also made to far Eastern regions, including Amur and Sakhalin, as well as the Khabarovsky and Primorie territories. This visit really served as a milestone in bringing Korean-Russian relations to a new high level.
I would like to emphasize that the party and government of the DPRK has consistently maintained a firm position on the continued development and deepening of Korean-Russian friendship with its history and traditions, which were forged in the flames of the anti-Japanese war and which have served our peoples from generation to generation.
The Korean side will make every effort to further the dynamic development of relations between our countries in every sphere of politics, economics and culture, in accordance with the spirit of high-level agreements, the joint Korean-Russian declarations, and on the basis of the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of these two nations.
In recent years, Western nations have more frequently begun to accuse the DPRK of human rights violations. How does the DPRK intend to right such charges?
Yes, this is true. The United States and Western countries are now actively referring to so-called human rights violations in the DPRK as a means of pursuing their unseemly political ends.
In particular, at this moment their “human rights campaign” is aimed at the opening of the U.N.’s General Assembly in November, in order to ensure with the support of their satellites the introduction for consideration by the U.N. General Assembly the human rights situation in our country, and to work toward the adoption of a cruel resolution against the DPRK. I want to emphasize that these attempts by Western nations lack legitimacy and are fraught with a lot of contentious issues.
The fact is that the very “Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” now relies entirely on the United States and the West, and as such is devoid of any impartiality or objectivity.
In it, there is no objective and impartial references to the real situation; to the policies and mechanisms that ensure human rights in the DPRK. Instead, the document is full of fabricated materials by the United States and “testimony” from the mouths of so-called defectors, who are really just criminals that fled from the country having committed terrible crimes against their homeland and people.
It is clear that under no circumstances can we allow such a document to become the basis and foundation for discussion at the U.N., because this directly affects the U.N.’s authority.
In order to hold an impartial discussion on questions of human rights, it is necessary before it is too late to submit for consideration a document that was corroborated by objective evidence, underwent a comprehensive discussion and legitimate procedures, and takes into account the recently published report by the DPRK Association for Human Rights Studies.
Another serious aspect of the situation is that the United States and its allies have closed their eyes to the fact that the government of the DPRK takes great pains to ensure all rights of the population, and without any reasonable basis, they accuse us of lacking the will and commitment to improve the human rights situation.
In the DPRK the leading ideology is the Juche Idea, which asserts that man is the most important thing and demands that everything be subjugated to the service of man.
In our country, every citizen has the right to vote and to be elected, the freedom to engage in political activities, and the right to free speech, organization, freedom of conscience and religion as guaranteed by law. In our country, citizens take it for granted that immediately after birth they are guaranteed a stable life by the government.
A system of free universal health care, 12 years of free compulsory education, free housing, the lack of unemployment and the elimination of taxes are the pride of our people.
Over the past few years the government of the DPRK has done everything possible to adopt a number of measures to defend human rights, to improve legal mechanisms, and to achieve the peace and security of the nation, which is a prerequisite and a priority for achieving human rights. Great efforts have been made to strengthen international cooperation in the fields of human rights. We have made important statements about the effort to establish a dialogue on human rights.
However, the United States and its allies do not want to face the truth, and at every opportunity attempt to tarnish the DPRK’s image so as to increase international pressure under the pretext of human rights. All evidence suggests that they are trying to use the holy of holies — human rights — as an instrument to strangle the DPRK. Now, the United States and Western nations want to submit to the U.N. General Assembly a “Draft Resolution on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” which is a typical example of the politicization of human rights, selectivity and double standards.
If such a document is to be adopted by the U.N., then it could set a dangerous precedent. Certain forces guided by political motives can without any constraints place the selected country in the “penalty box,” and then the next American showdown could create great uncertainty in the international political system.
With regard to the propaganda put forth by the United States and Western nations about imaginary “camps for political prisoners” and “labor camps,” there are no political prisoners in our country and as such there cannot be a conversation about such camps.
And the “labor camps” about which they are so noisy are just penal institutions, and in one of these the convicted American Kenneth Pae (Pae Jun Ho) is serving his sentence. We have never made any secret of the fact that such labor camps exist in the country.
The United States has historically committed a number of hostile actions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including political pressure, military threats, economic sanctions and a blockade. It is now suddenly talking about human rights issues — and it is not doing this, as it says, out of the goodness of its heart for our people.
After years of unsuccessful attempts to cripple the DPRK, which the United States undertook by artificially creating and inflating the nuclear issue, it intends this time to use the “human rights” theme to overthrow our country. The essence of the United States’ “human rights” campaign is the fact that human rights problems in the DPRK are being inflated to achieve its final collapse.
The international community should strongly oppose the policy of the United States and its allies to use human rights as a tool for applying political pressure, interfering in internal affairs, and for overthrowing regimes in other sovereign states.
The government of the DPRK will do everything possible to achieve a higher level of actual human rights in this country, and will cooperate with other countries and international organizations in this field not out of fear of pressure from the United States, but owing to the very nature of our social system and the ruling state ideology — the Juche idea.