Joint call on North Korea’s anti-black hate speech and racist propaganda on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Recommendations for North Korea’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 9 May 2019

Seoul, March 21, 2019

Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which commemorates the 59th anniversary of the massacre of 69 peaceful anti-apartheid protesters in Sharpeville, South Africa on 21 March 1960. While humanity has made great progress in terms of ending institutional segregation and discrimination in the decades since that dark chapter in history, the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination remains a distant, unfulfilled dream.

The theme of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is: Mitigating and countering rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies. As the United Nations has warned, racist extremist movements based on ideologies that seek to promote populist, nationalist agendas are spreading in various parts of the world, fueling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, often targeting migrants and refugees as well as people of African descent.

Sadly, North Korea, which will participate in the third cycle of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council on 9 May 2019, has been far ahead of the trend when it comes to the use of nationalist populism and supremacist ideologies—as seen from the shocking instances of hate speech listed below:

Sources Korean original English translation
The statement of 27 December 2014 by the Policy Department of the National Defence Commission 열대수림속에서 서식하는 원숭이상 그대로 언제 봐야 말과 행동이 경망스럽기 그지없는 오바마 Obama whose words and deeds are unfailingly imprudent just like the image of a monkey inhabiting tropical jungles
An article entitled “A Monkey-Like Human Freak [잰내비같은 인간추물]” by Kang Hyuk, a worker at the Chollima Ironworks Factory, in Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 2 May 2014; also reported in the 3 May 2014 edition of the Workers’ Newspaper [로동신문], official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea 까무잡잡한 상통에 멀퉁한 재빛눈깔, 휑하니 뚫린 코구멍, 부풀어오른 두툼한 주둥이에 버럭털이 까시시한 빨쭉귀, 뜯어볼수록 아프리카원시림속의 잰내비상통 그대로이다 very face of a monkey in the African primeval forest with a black face, gaunt grey eyes, cavate nostrils, plump mouth and hairy rough ears
인류가 진화되여 수백만년이 흐르도록 아직도 잰내비모양을 하고있는 오바마 Obama who has retained the shape of a monkey after millions of years of evolution by humanity
세계에서 제일 크다고 하는 아프리카자연동물원의 원숭이무리속에 끼워 구경군들이 던져주는 빵부스레기나 핥으며 사는것이 제격일것이다 fit to live among a herd of monkeys in the world’s largest African natural zoo, licking bread crumbs thrown by visitors
An editorial entitled “The Talk of ‘Multi-Ethnic, Multi-Racial Society’ is a Talk of Liquidating the Nation [<다민족, 다인종사회>론은 민족말살론]” by Choi Mun-Il in the 27 April 2006 edition of the Workers’ Newspaper [로동신문], official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea 남조선의 친미사대매국세력이 운운하는 <다민족, 다인종사회>론은 민족의 단일성을 부정하고 남조선을 이민족화, 잡탕화, 미국화하려는 용납 못할 민족말살론이다. The talk of ‘multi-ethnic, multi-racial society’ by the pro-US, kowtowing sellouts is an unforgivable talk of liquidating the nation through adulteration, mongrelization and Americanization.


As appalling as these words are, there can be no doubts about their veracity as they come straight from North Korea’s government authorities and state news outlets. Such toxic advocacy of national and racial hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, especially when leveled at other heads of state, is precisely the kind of nationalist populism and supremacist ideologies that humanity must challenge and confront. The lack of respect for sovereign leaders runs parallel to the disregard of sovereignty in general as seen in the serial kidnapping and detention of foreign nationals without due process.

The North Korean verbal outrage has not been limited in nature to racism or xenophobia. “Watching Park Geun-hye’s dallying with Obama this time reminds one of a depraved chick who pesters a gangster to beat someone or a wicked whore who asks her pimp to do harm to other person in return for sex”1) and “a diabolical kowtowing traitor, an abominable US comfort woman, a filthy prostitute that betrayed the nation”2) in reference to South Korea’s then president (the statement of 27 April 2014 by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland). The staff writer Heo Young-Min (허영민) wrote on the 3 May 2014 edition of the Workers’ Newspaper: “Obama was given a bed service by none other than the old whore Park Geun-Hye”.3)

These sexist, misogynistic expressions, as well as the racist, xenophobic ones, that shock the conscience of humanity are the living manifestation of the state juche (“self-reliance”) ideology—or, one may hazard, religion. Over the 70 years of its existence, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has developed a paranoid, isolationist world view, seeing enemies everywhere. While the three successive rulers of the Kim dynasty are hailed and deified as national fathers of the master Korean race, whose portraits are expected to be salvaged from a burning house, citizens with questionable loyalty and their children face discrimination under the songbun system or a lifetime in the gulag.

The most appalling display of the racist nature of the juche belief system is the forced abortion and infanticide of the ‘mixed-blood’ babies of North Korean women forcibly repatriated from China. The North Korean defectors in China, who are mostly women, often bear offpsrings as a result of human trafficking and/or marriage or concubinage with local Chinese men. Upon their return to North Korea, the babies and children sired by Chinese fathers are aborted or killed in line with the national obsession with maintaining the ‘racial purity’ of the Korean people.

It is incumbent upon the international community to eradicate racism, xenophobia and hate speech in all their forms. Although deep-rooted nationalist populism and supremacist ideologies are difficult to eliminate, the past successes in realizing the civil rights of blacks in America and ending apartheid in South Africa show that concerted efforts can make a difference. A strong international stance on the matter may at the very least curb the most virulent forms of hate speech and racist atrocities in North Korea.

To this end, we urge the governments to make the following recommendations to North Korea in the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 9 May 2019:

  1. Ratify core human rights treaties, in particular the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  2. Accept a visit by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
  3. End the practice of forced abortion and infanticide of biracial half-Chinese fetuses and babies of the women forcibly repatriated from China in the name of racial purity, and bring those responsible to justice
  4. Resolve the abduction and detention without due process of foreign nationals, including the unreturned passengers and crew of the 1969 Korean Airline hijacking which marks the 50th anniversary this year and the South Korean nationals captured and held in the recent years (inter alia Jung-wook Kim, Guk-gi Kim, Chun-Gil Choi, Hyun-Chul Ko, Won-Ho Kim, Jin Woo Ham), in violation of their human rights and sovereignty of fellow UN member states, by releasing and returning them
  5. Publicly repudiate and end the use of racist, xenophobic hate speech or espousal of racial superiority in the government statements and the state media as in the statement of 27 December 2014 by the Policy Department of the National Defence Commission, the 2 May 2014 article entitled “A Monkey-Like Human Freak” by Kang Hyuk in Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and the 27 April 2006 editorial entitled “The Talk of ‘Multi-Ethnic, Multi-Racial Society’ is a Talk of Liquidating the Nation” by Choi Mun-Il in the Workers’ Newspaper and hold the responsible officials to account
  6. Adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation to address all forms of discrimination, hate speech and negative stereotypes, in particular against the people of African and Chinese descent
  7. Adopt a national action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, by the relevant organ, and allocate proper resources for its implementation
  8. Intensify awareness-raising campaigns and reform the school curriculum to combat racial and xenophobic stereotypes and condemn strongly and publicly hate speech in the public sphere

We hope that these recommendations and their acceptance by North Korea at the UPR will help eliminate all forms of racial discrimination and assist in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

1) The Korean original: “오바마를 바로 늙다리기생 박근혜가 수청들었다”

2) The Korean original: “박근혜가 이번에 오바마앞에서 놀아댄 몰골을 보면 흡사 주먹깡패를 불러다 누구를 혼내달라고 떼질쓰는 못돼먹은 철부지계집애같기도 하고 기둥서방에게 몸을 바치면서 남을 모해하는 간특하고도 요사스러운 기생화냥년 한가지이다”

3) The Korean original: “극악한 사대매국노, 추악한 미국위안부, 더러운 민족반역매음부”

  • 1969 KAL Abductees’ Families Association | 1969KAL기 납치피해자가족회
  • Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR) | 북한인권시민연합
  • Human Asia | 휴먼아시아
  • Korean War Abductees’ Family Union (KWAFU) | 6.25전쟁납북인사가족협의회
  • NK Watch | 엔케이워치
  • North Korea Strategy Center (NKSC) | 북한전략센터
  • Now Action & Unity for Human Rights (NAUH) | 나우
  • Open North Korea (ONK) | 열린북한
  • People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE) | 성공적인 통일을 만들어가는 사람들
  • Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) | 전환기 정의 워킹그룹