In a letter received today from the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon responded to concerns about religious persecution in North Korea:
Thank you for your correspondence of 1 November about religious persecution in North Korea. The UK continues to have strong concerns about the lack of freedom of religion or belief in North Korea. Religious and human rights groups outside the country report that those conducting religious activities outside state-sanctioned religious groups face severe punishment including arrest, beatings and imprisonment in political prison camps. We continue to urge North Korea to uphold its human rights obligations and engage substantively with the international community on this issue. Defending the right to freedom of religion or belief for all is a priority for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The UK Government remains committed to implementing the recommendations from the Bishop of Truro’s independent Review on persecuted Christians in full. Of the recommendations, 18 have already been, or are in the process of being, implemented. One of those recommendations related to the establishment of the UK’s Global Human Rights sanctions regime. As you know, this regime came into effect on 6 July and allows us to designate those who commit serious human rights abuses or violations, including those who target individuals on the grounds of their religion or belief. We take decisions about whether particular individuals or entities could be subject to measures under the regime on a case-by-case basis, based on the available evidence. We have already designated two entities involved in administering the North Korean penal system. The Korea Future Initiative’s (KFI) new report contains disturbing accounts of violations of freedoms in North Korea, and we regard it as a valuable contribution towards ensuring that human rights violations in North Korea are documented for accountability and deterrence purposes. My officials would welcome the opportunity to discuss KFI’s report with them in greater detail.