This March, Jubilee Campaign held our CSW64 event virtually. Read about our event, the witness testimony of Eiko Kawasaki, and our NGO panelists Ann Buwalda, John Sifton and Greg Scarlatoiu.

This March, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was set to have its 64th Session regarding the progress in implementation of the 1995 Platform for Action which was ratified at the Fourth World Conference on Women.

In lieu of the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Jubilee Campaign, in collaboration with several North Korean human rights organizations held an online panel, “25 Years of Repression and Regression for North Korean Women” to discuss the failure of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully implement the Platform for Action in regards to the plethora of human rights violations waged against women within its borders.

During our online event, Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign, gave a powerful statement in which she revealed that domestic and sexual violence, physical abuse and torture, starvation, and denial of reproductive rights are perhaps the most egregious violations of human rights that North Korean women face on a daily basis at home, work, and in public.

A particularly interesting point made by Ms. Buwalda is that the DPRK has consistently made false claims in their submissions to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW), such as claims that sexual violence and trafficking of women does not exist within the nation, despite observances of many human rights organizations that this is blatantly false.

John Sifton

We need to prioritize the idea that human rights and counter-proliferation are linked.

Human Rights Watch’s John Sifton states that exposing human rights violations in North Korea “is not a partisan issue,” emphasizing that the situation in North Korea should always remain a priority. But nowadays, attention on North Korean human rights violations has been diminishing, and we need to get it back on the agenda. The best strategy for getting human rights back on the agenda is to prioritize the idea that human rights and counter-proliferation are linked. The cash generated by women’s rights abuses, both in North Korea and outside North Korea, is used to pay for the nuclear program.” Sifton emphasizes that we need to include human rights in our discussions with North Korea, that we cannot afford to ignore such egregious abuses.

Greg Scarlatoiu

Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director at Committee for Human Rights North Korea, spoke regarding the subjugation of North Korean women, despite that they have historically “assumed primary responsibility for the survival of their families.” Women such as Ms. Eiko Kawasaki have shown tremendous courage by escaping the clutches of the Kim regime and working as advocates and mouthpieces regarding human rights in the DPRK. North Korean women also face a disproportionately high risk of being exposed to the novel coronavirus – women in the household take up the task of regularly attending markets and workplaces – and simultaneously pose risks of spreading the disease to their families, including their children and elderly relatives. He concluded that we should not overlook the growing agency and influence of civil society organizations around the world, and take advantage of this phenomenon allowing and requiring us to keep human rights violations against North Korean women in the media.

Eiko Kawasaki

Former Defector and Founder of Korea of All

Eiko Kawasaki has a wealth of knowledge regarding daily life for women in the oppressive Kim regime. When she was just 17 years old, she, along with nearly 100,000 North Korean returnees were convinced by false propaganda that North Korea had become a “paradise,” but were quickly faced by the harsh reality. Ms. Kawasaki made out the best she could in this situation: she went to college, started a career, married, and had children in North Korea. She spent a total of some 40 years in North Korea before gaining the courage to escape in 2003, where she advocated from Japan, founding “Korea of All” and chairing Action for Korea United-Japan.

In her personal statement, Ms. Kawasaki revealed how tumultous her and other women’s lives were in North Korea. She barely had enough food to feed her children; sickness due to malnutrition was a regularity; sexual harassment goes ignored; male coworkers own their female coworkers and husbands own their wives; housewives must work but must also take up cooking, cleaning, and childrearing work. Ms. Kawasaki’s status as a woman, combined with her status as an ethnic Korean from Japan placed her at the lowest social position. Tragically, even today, 17 years after her escape and subsequent return to Japan, she still has trouble sleeping, fearing for her children’s and grandchildren’s safety back in North Korea.

During our online event, she shared her heart-wrenching testimony of life under the regime and answered some audience questions: When asked if the end of the Kim dictatorship could possibly end, Ms. Kawasaki explains that Kim Jong Un is fearful of the power and strength of the United States. Ms. Kawasaki predicts that by the end of 2020, the North Korean economy will completely collapse due to the halt of necessary imports from China amidst the coronavirus threat. “I suggest President Trump meets with Kim Jong Un one more time to present to choices: whether he will save his life or abandon his dictatorship. And I am one hundred percent sure Kim Jong Un will choose to save his own life.” One audience member asks how Ms. Kawasaki herself escaped North Korea. She explained that Kim Il Sung’s death combined with the death of European communism prompted one of Ms. Kawasaki’s friends to ask her how much long she predicted the regime would continue. Ms. Kawasaki predicted only 3 to 5 years, and recognizes now how naive she was. When Kim Jong Il took power, he “abandoned his nation,” causing mass starvation and devastation. That is when she decided to leave the nation. One question asked what is the largest violation against women in North Korea. Ms. Kawasaki explained that predomination of men and subjugation of women is the worst problem faced by North Korean women.