The U.S. State Department’s 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices stated that the South Korean Moon Jae-in administration’s pressure on North Korean defectors to curb criticism of North Korea policy violates human rights. In its report on North Korea, the State Department described the human rights violations of North Korea but removed the expression “egregious,” which was included in the previous report.
“As the government engaged in talks with the DPRK, defector organizations reported coming under direct and indirect pressure from the government to reduce their criticism of North Korea,” stated the report on Wednesday (local time). It is the first time the U.S. government has mentioned the situation of human rights and North Korean defector groups in South Korea. Experts say that it can be seen as an indirect way of cautioning the Moon Jae-in administration, whose policy direction diverts from the Trump administration’s policy.
“During the year there were reports that South Korean government authorities contacted North Korean refugees and asked that they withhold their criticism of the North Korean government in advance of the Winter Olympics,” the report said. According to the report, 20 years’ funding support for the Association of North Korean defectors was terminated under the Moon administration and police blocked the groups’ efforts to send leaflets into North Korea by balloon. The South Korean government was slow to establish the North Korean Human Rights Foundation and ambassador-at-large on North Korean human rights had been vacant for more than a year.
In its report on North Korea, the U.S. State Department noted North Korea’s human rights situation, including political murder, forced disappearance, torture, and arbitrary detention. Still, the report omitted the expression “egregious human rights violations” that was included in last year’s report, in light of possible dialogue with North Korea. This is interpreted as a message signaling that denuclearization talks with North Korea are still open.