UK Parliamentary Group North Korea discusses human rights and humnitarian challenges in 2020

In June 2020 Dr Sarah Son had the opportunity to present to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea (APPG NK) on current developments regarding the situation of human rights in North Korea.


The APPG is currently Chaired by Fiona Bruce MP and the group holds regular hearings on North Korea, including testimonies and reports from North Korean refugees, activists and policy experts. 

At the June hearing, we discussed the impact of increasing illegal information flows into North Korea, which is influencing everything from fashion trends to private market activities and social signalling in North Korea. These information flows are also forcing subtle shifts in the North Korean regime’s information management strategy, as it attempts to counter the influence of foreign media, including South Korean dramas and Hollywood films, on the hearts, minds and behaviours of the population. The situation has also led to vocal demands from North Korea to the South Korean government to ban activists sending leaflets and USB drives or SD cards containing illegal media by balloon over the inter-Korean border.

Aside from these developments, the hearing also made clear that this has been a difficult year for North Korea. The period between 2018-19 saw North Korea hit the headlines for the extraordinary summitry that took place between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former US President Donald Trump in Singapore and again in Hanoi, prompting hope that steps towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and a peace agreement between North and South Korea might be on the horizon.

However, the arrival of Covid-19 in early 2020 saw North Korea close its borders and scale back international dialogue, and Kim Jong Un has stayed well out of the public eye. The border closures have had a severe impact on the humanitarian situation and food security, which were already under pressure as a result of strict international sanctions. Although North Korea has said it has had no cases of Covid-19, unofficial reports suggest otherwise. I hope to continue to work with the APPG NK as it monitors the situation in North Korea closely, using the information it gathers to inform the UK’s official policy towards the country.

Dr. Sarah A. Son

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