North Korea blasts Australia on human rights
The hermitic and totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea - where millions are now reportedly on the brink of starvation - says it is very worried about what is happening in Australia.
During a United Nations assembly event this week, the increasingly isolated nation's representative, Kim Song, said North Korea had "continued concerns over the human rights violations in Australia". He then went on to give a list of his areas of concern.
"We reference the international human rights law and recommend that Australia follows it," he said.
"First, Australia must end deep-rooted racism and treatment to ethnic minorities.
"Secondly, to cease inhumane treatment in detention centres.
"Third, to ensure the right for all to participate in elections."
No Joke: 🇰🇵 NORTH KOREA today reviewed 🇦🇺 Australia's rights record at the UN:— UN Watch (@UNWatch) January 20, 2021
"DPRK is concerned about human rights in Australia. We recommend to Australia: 1) End racism. 2) Cease inhuman treatment in detention centers. 3) Ensure the right of all to participate in elections." pic.twitter.com/BP8Nt5ibas
The comments have been brutally mocked by some commentators, with Liberal MP Dave Sharma saying they "must be an attempt at irony". British journalist Andrew Neil said Mr Kim's comments were "beyond parody".
It is widely known that North Korea's totalitarian government has maintained a reign of fear through arbitrary imprisonment, unpaid forced labour, torture, enforced disappearance, and execution - as well as denying basic freedoms to its citizens.
But the comments against Australia are particularly jarring given what is happening in North Korea right now.
It sealed its borders with China and Russia with orders to "unconditionally shoot" on sight anybody entering without permission.
The North Korean Workers' Party is understood to have sent those who break quarantine rules to camps and designated them as "special criminals".
By doing so, they can send citizens to forced labour camps where they put them through horrendous conditions resulting in death.
Sources have told North Korean news that some prisoners have died due to the harsh treatment.
"Kim Jong-un's government used COVID-19 restrictions as a pretext to further entrench totalitarian rule and keep North Koreans isolated from the rest of the world," Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch John Sifton said.
The nation is also running out of food because of the border closures.
By mid-December, the Japan-based AsiaPress news agency reported that starving residents of the nation's cities, including children, were heading out into the countryside on a daily basis to scavenge for food.
"The most vulnerable people in cities, including the elderly, are dying of malnutrition and disease," a reporter for the publication said.
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The Daily NK, which is based in the South Korean capital of Seoul and relies on contacts in the North for its coverage, painted a grim picture for the current situation in North Korea.
"If you're eating two meals a day, you are doing well," a source from the hermit nation told the newspaper. "Most people are eating just a single meal of porridge or rice mixed with radish leaves a day.
"Nowadays, you find a lot of dead homeless people in the mornings around Hyesan or Wiyon train stations, near university dormitories or construction sites," the source said. "With people starving to death all around, the atmosphere is bleak."
It is not the first time the nation has faced mass starvation. A four-year famine in the mid-1990s - brought on by drought, flooding and chronic economic mismanagement - is estimated to have killed as many 3.5 million people.
Originally published as 'Beyond parody': N Korea lashes Australia