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Europeans, U.S. Accuse N. Korea of Using Pandemic to Crack Down on Rights: Analysis Updated: 2020-12-16 16:17:37 KST

From Bibles to K-pop and K-dramas, for years, activist groups in South Korea have sent various things across the border to the North.
But, that could now cost them up to three years in prison and a fine of 27-thousand U.S. dollars.
The South Korean parliament approved a bill into law earlier this week banning sending material across the border critical of the North Korean regime without permission from the Seoul government.

Meanwhile, last week on Friday, the United Nations Security Council discussed human rights abuses in North Korea after the issue was raised by seven members who accused Pyeongyang of using the coronavirus pandemic "to crack down further on the human rights of its own people."

This and more, let's go in-depth on North Korea this week with Dr. Go Myong-hyun.

Good evening, Dr. Go.

This new law passed in the South Korean parliament has been drawing criticism from rights groups and North Korean defectors who say the government is limiting free speech.
Explain to us, what this is all about. Does it really undermine democratic values in an efforts to improve relations with Pyeongyang as critics argue?

Inter-Korean ties have skidded to a low point this year. Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, blasted Seoul in June for allowing a defector-led group to tie anti-regime leaflets to balloons and float them into the cloistered regime. Her criticism came days before North Korea blew up a jointly run liaison office.
How do you see North Korea responding to this latest lawmaking, and what kind of impact do you see it having on inter-Korean relations?

Meanwhile, South Korean lawmakers also passed a bill to stop investigation of domestic activities related to North Korea. The law will transfer this task to the national police by 2024.
If the National Intelligence Service (NIS) is no longer able to conduct these investigations,
how will that affect inter-Korean relations as well as the South's relationship with the U.S.?

Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, Estonia, the United States and the Dominican Republic brought up North Korea's human rights issue in a closed-door virtual meeting at the UN on Friday.
Between 2014 and 2017 the Security Council held annual public meetings on human rights abuses in North Korea.
In 2018, the council did not discuss the issue; last year, the U.S. instead convened a meeting on the threat of escalation by North Korea amid growing tensions between Pyeongyang and Washington.
Is North Korea using the pandemic "to crack down further on the human rights of its own people?"

Speaking of Kim Yo-jong lashing out at South Korea, Seoul's foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha was the latest in that hot seat when Kim's sister berated Sorth Korea's top diplomat for casting doubt over its claim that there were no coronavirus outbreaks there, warning of consequences for her "impudent" comment.
Kang had said that it was "hard to believe" that North Korea had no Covid cases even as the regime has been making all-out efforts to prevent the disease. Why is the Kim leadership being so sensitive about this?

Coming out of the North Korea rumor mill was the Kim Jong-un and his immediate family had been vaccinated by a Covid-19 vaccine from China. Many experts have called that baseless. But, we now have rumors that North Korea has obtained COVID-19 vaccines from Russia.
Are these completely baseless rumors, or do you know if any such moves are being carried out by North Korea?

Countries around the world are preparing to get supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.
Equitable access is key in this project in eradicating this pandemic.
Even with North Korea, still not claiming to have any positive COVID-19 cases, they would also need to acquire access to a vaccine.
Do you have any insight into how they might go about doing so?

No COVID-19 cases, but North Korea is bracing for a rapid spread of tuberculosis.
Even before the pandemic, North Korea had one of the world's highest TB prevalence rates outside sub-Saharan Africa.
It's been reported that supplies of first-line drugs against more treatable strains of TB are expected to run out this month.
How do you read into this situation?

Dr. Go Myong-hyun, senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies many thanks for your insights as always. We'll see you right back here next Wednesday for an year end wrap up of all things North Korea.
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