Trump-Kim summit: A missed opportunity to discuss human rights violations in North Korea?

Nearly four years ago, at the One Young World (OYW) 2014 Summit in Dublin, North Korean delegate speaker Yeonmi Park shared her journey of escape from North Korea, cutting into the emotions of the OYW community. Since then, her story has gone viral, with the video of her speech being shared nearly 1.5 million times and gathering over 82 million views online. 


Her words shed light on the systems in place under the current regime that allow for atrocities such as public executions and sex trafficking to have become the norm in North Korea. Yeonmi offered three suggestions for helping North Koreans to the OYW delegation:

“One, educate yourself so that you can raise awareness about human crisis in North Korea. Two, help and support North Korean refugees who are trying to escape to freedom. Three, petition China's on repatriation. We have to shine a light on the darkest place in the world. It isn't just North Korean human rights, it's our rights that North Korean dictators have violated for seven decades.”

This week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump met for an historic summit in Singapore on 12 June 2018. Top priorities in the agenda included denuclearization of North Korean peninsula and international security. However, many question the extent of focus placed on human rights atrocities throughout the talks. Following the summit, President Trump was asked about human rights violations that are still present in North Korea, to which he responded "not much I can do right now. At a certain point, I really believe he's going to do things about it.” On the topic of North Koreans currently being held in forced labor camps, Trump said he thinks “they are one of the great winners today.”

Following these historic talks, Yeonmi expressed her concern over the summit’s silence regarding institutionalised human rights issues still intact in her home country:

"Whilst the hope of denuclearisation and peace on the peninsula should not be minimised, I would stress that human rights should be at the heart of all future negotiations. The press may be sidetracked by the photo opportunity but more than 100,000 people remain in brutal gulags in North Korea. They are not the "big winners" of this process and risk being forgotten."  - Yeonmi Park

Earlier this week, Yeonmi also shared a video message to President Trump on the New York Times:

North Korea defector Jihyun Park articulated similar sentiments that the Trump-Kim summit was a missed opportunity to discuss the wide scale human rights violations that the Kim regime perpetuates. When asked about her thoughts on the recent talks between the leaders, Jihyun stated:

“Really not much to see here. No mention of Human Rights either.  Donald Trump attended a press conference and he mentioned North Korea human rights but Kim Jong-Un never mentions them and he didn't even attend the press conference.  For the first few moments after the press conference I lost hope but I truly believe that, if I keep bringing up North Korea human rights, the world will eventually wake up and care.

‘The enemy is not stronger than the people they are fighting’

If you are unconcerned about this genocide or stay silent, in the future many more innocent people will be killed under this dictatorship. I urge everyone to please give due attention to 25 million people suffering in North Korea.”

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