September 21, 2012 - As he prepares to welcome his South Korean counterpart to Ottawa this weekend, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“Canada demands that North Korea provide documented information on the fate of Shin Sook-ja and her two daughters, Oh Hye-won and Oh Gyu-won, who have been detained for many years in North Korea’s infamous political prison camp system.
“North Korea’s despicable treatment of this family is emblematic of the systematic, widespread and grave violation of human rights suffered by too many in that country. Canada again urges that all political prison camps—where an estimated 200,000 people are currently being held—be closed immediately and their internees reunited with their families.
“Canada is an unwavering champion of improved human rights in North Korea and takes every opportunity to support international action on this issue, whether it is at the United Nations or other multilateral forums.”
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A backgrounder follows.
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Shin Sook-ja, a South Korean citizen, followed her husband Oh Kil-nam to North Korea in 1985 on the understanding that North Korea would provide medical care for her. When Mr. Oh defected from North Korea two years later, Ms. Shin and her daughters, Oh Hye-won and Oh Gyu-won, were imprisoned in the Yodok political prison camp.
North Korea has been the source of much concern to the Canadian government and to Canadians. In October 2010, Canada announced a controlled engagement policy toward North Korea. Special economic measures came into effect in August 2011.
Since 2006, Canada has contributed over $17.1 million in food aid for the people of North Korea. The aid was channelled through the Canadian International Development Agency and the World Food Programme. In March 2011, Canada presented the first annual John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award to the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.
On Monday, September 17, 2012, the Canadian government tabled in Parliament the Government Response to the Second Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Among other items, the response addressed the issue of political prison camps in North Korea and continuing human rights violations in that country. Canada has been and will continue to be clear and firm in terms of its position on the human rights situation in North Korea.