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As Ban Heads to Seoul, ICP's Told of 1000s Disappeared in DPRK Camps

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 27 -- Two days before UN Secretary General set out for South Korea to receive the Seoul Peace Prize, the Chair of UN system's Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, Olivier de Frouville, held a joint press conference at the UN in New York.

   Inner City Press asked about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or North Korea. Video here, from Minute 46:21.

    The Working Group on Enforced Disappearances' most recent annual report lists the cases of "Jeong-Woong Choi, Won Hwang and Dong-Ki Lee who were allegedly abducted while on board of Korean Airlines flight YS-11, flying from Gangneung City to Seoul’s airport" and says "the Government transmitted three communications to the Working Group, dated 9 February, 9 May and 12 September 2011, in which it replied to nine outstanding case."

  When Inner City Press asked about these cases, Olivier de Frouville said there has been no progress, "it looks bigger than us... it's really a matter of how in the future the DPRK could be ready to cooperation with us. At moment there's no dialogue on those issues."

   He also told Inner City Press, as something of an aside, that the Working Group "received recently very serious and credible allegation the number of persons effectively disappeared in camps are by thousands."

   When will this be reported on? As Inner City Press asked the UN about in August 2012 without much answer, Ban Ki-moon noted in a recent visit to Korea that "the UN has appointed a special envoy to handle North Korean human rights issues, but the communist country refuses to let him visit. He also said he 'actively took part' in getting the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to denounce the detentions and urge North Korea to release the women, in May."

  After that quote, at the August 15 noon briefing Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey, what was his involvement? Maybe you’ll know or you can find – what was his involvement in that Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions?

  When 5 pm hit on the next day August 16, and no information had been provided, an article was called for.

  This is increasingly a problem in the UN, among top Ban Ki-moon officials. Ban's Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has taken to refusing to answer any Press questions, due to what he calls (without defining) "insulting insinuations." 

  Tellingly, Ladsous was chosen by France for the post -- which has apparently been assigned to that country. This was without so much as an interview to vet him on his statements as France's deputy UN ambassador during the Rwanda genocide, or his arranging of disgraced ex-French foreign minister Michele Aliot-Marie's flights with cronies of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali.

   Now Ladsous proposes the UN use drones, without being willing to answer Press questions on any safeguards.

  So what is being done about this report of thousands disappeared in DPRK work camps? We'll see.

Footnote: Ban's trip to Seoul coincides with the impending arrival of hurricane Sandy in New York. Already, for example, Amnesty International has canceled an event on Monday, October 29 -- a day on which an all day Security Council debate is scheduled on Women, Peace and Security. Will it go forward?

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