Sony Attack Denounced at UN as China Fails to Shield KimSangwon Yoon
The U.S. used a United Nations forum in its campaign to blame North Korea for the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, as the Security Council held its first-ever meeting on human rights in the isolated nation.
“Not content with denying freedom of expression to its own people, the North Korean regime now seems intent on suppressing the exercise of this fundamental freedom in our nation,” Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador, said at the UN on Monday. “This is absurd. Yet it is exactly the kind of behavior we have come to expect from a regime that threatened to take ‘merciless countermeasures’ against the U.S. over a Hollywood comedy, and has no qualms about holding tens of thousands of people in harrowing gulags.”
North Korea had fought for months against the world body taking up a 400-page report by a UN commission, which was the first to urge that the isolated country and its reclusive leader, Kim Jong Un, be held accountable for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court. China, North Korea’s ally and neighbor, unsuccessfully objected to Monday’s debate in the Security Council.
Eleven of the 15 Security Council members voted to take up the issue, with China and Russia opposing the debate and two other members abstaining. North Korea’s representatives boycotted the session.
China’s Ambassador Liu Jieyi said his nation objected to “imposing pressure against other countries with the pretext of human-rights issues.”
North Korea’s Ambassador Ja Song Nam submitted a letter to the Security Council condemning the UN criticism as “fabricated on the basis of plots, lies and misinformation and forced by the United States and other hostile countries in a highhanded and arbitrary manner.”
Two UN officials briefed the council on the regime’s alleged crimes against humanity, from forced prostitution and torture to an extensive system of political prison camps.
Added to that condemnation was the U.S. assertion, denied by North Korea, that it was behind the attack on Sony’s computers. The intrusion exposed Hollywood secrets, destroyed company data and caused the studio to cancel the release of “The Interview,” a satire about two American journalists involved in a CIA plot to kill Kim. Sony has said it’s looking for a new way to release the film after U.S. theater chains refused to show it due to online threats of violence.
“In the most recent example of its recklessness, the DPRK carried out a significant cyber-attack on the United States in response to a Hollywood comedy portraying a farcical assassination plot,” Power said, referring to North Korea by an acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea’s limited access to the Internet was cut off, network-monitoring companies reported hours before the Security Council convened the meeting.
The four official networks connecting the North to the Internet -- all of which route through China -- began experiencing intermittent problems Dec. 21, according to monitors including Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research in Hanover, New Hampshire.
The access was restored after a nearly 10-hour outage, Dyn Research said on Twitter.
In the UN debate, Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan said North Korea’s cyber-attacks as well as abductions of foreign nationals demonstrate “the extent to which it is prepared to defy international norms, and aggressively seek to destabilize other countries and international commerce.”
The debate was the first time the Security Council, the most powerful UN body, has discussed North Korea beyond its nuclear-weapons proliferation activities. The session was proposed before the attack on Sony was made public.
The human-rights report issued in February includes details on brainwashing, torture, starvation and imprisonment for crimes such as questioning the North Korean system, trying to escape it, or believing in Christianity.
Last month, 10 Security Council members, including the U.S., South Korea and European nations, asked UN officials to brief the council on the situation in North Korea. The request was made after the human-rights committee of the General Assembly adopted a resolution urging Kim’s prosecution.
“It’s very difficult to think about political stability as well as sustainable development” where there is no human-rights promotion and protection, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Monday when asked about North Korea. “When there is a serious, gross violation of human rights, then it can create a lot of movement of people fleeing the countries, and it creates refugee issues and problems.”
The North Korean government, which is sensitive to any criticism or ridicule of its dynastic regime, has condemned the resolution as the result of a political plot by the “hostile” U.S. government and its allies to use the human rights issue as a weapon to overthrow the leadership in Pyongyang.
It has rejected the findings of the UN report as lies and calls defectors who provided the evidence for the publication “human scum.”
No North Korean diplomats were seen in the Security Council chambers Monday.
The North “will take all the necessary measures, not bound to anything, to defend its sovereignty and security and protect its social system and the rights of its people,” Ja wrote in his letter.
Oh Joon, the South Korean Ambassador to the UN, testified about the ordeal of millions of his countrymen separated from their relatives who remain in the North.
“Even though we never hear from them, even though by now the pain of separation has become a cold fact of life, we know that they are there, just a few kilometers away from where we live,” Oh said.
“One day in the future when we look back on what we did today, we will be able to say that we did the right thing for the people of North Korea, for the lives of every man and woman, boy and girl who have the same human rights as the rest of us,” he said.