North Korea: Religious Freedom

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written question – answered on 30th March 2021.

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Photo of Imran Ahmad Khan Imran Ahmad Khan Conservative, Wakefield

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent steps his Department has taken to support freedom of religion in North Korea.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK continues to have strong concerns about the lack of freedom of religion or belief in North Korea. We continue to urge North Korea to uphold its human rights obligations and engage substantively with the international community on this issue. We regularly raise our concerns directly with the North Korean authorities and at the UN, including most recently through the Human Rights Council in March 2021.

The UK is committed to defending freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all, and promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities. Promoting the right to FoRB is one of the UK's longstanding human rights priorities.

The Minister responsible for Human Rights, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, underlined the UK's commitment to FoRB for all in a number of international meetings in November 2020, speaking at the Ministerial to Advance FoRB and the Ministers' Forum of the Alliance. On 20 December 2020, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to FoRB by appointing Fiona Bruce MP as his Special Envoy for FoRB. Mrs Bruce represents the UK at meetings of the Alliance who work to advocate for the rights of individuals being discriminated against or persecuted on the basis of their faith or belief.

In 2019, the Bishop of Truro released a report commissioned by the then Foreign Secretary looking into the then FCO support for persecuted Christians, with recommendations to improve the lives of people persecuted for their religion, faith or belief. One of those recommendations related to the establishment of the UK's Global Human Rights sanctions regime. This regime came into effect on 6 July 2020 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. We have already designated two entities involved in administering the North Korean penal system.

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