Seoul, 23 June 2015
Your Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Honourable Ministers and Justices,
Ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic community,
Distinguished guests and friends of OHCHR in the Republic of Korea (ROK),
I am delighted that my very first visit to Asia as High Commissioner for Human Rights is to the Republic of Korea – and the great city of Seoul.
It gives me even greater satisfaction that I should be here to open a new Field Office in Seoul to work on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the first presence of its kind that OHCHR has established in the Northeast Asia region.
I would like to express my deepest thanks and appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Korea for accepting to host this office, which was mandated last year by the Human Rights Council as a follow up to the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in DPRK.
I would also like to thank the Seoul Metropolitan Government for helping us establish the office in the Seoul Global Centre.
Less than 50 miles from here lies another world marked by the utmost repression and deprivation.
Tens of thousands of Korean people have escaped that reality, and through hazardous means, reached a new life in the ROK. But millions remain trapped in the grip of a totalitarian system which not only denies their freedom, but increasingly their basic survival needs. Tens of thousands, deemed to be disloyal have suffered an even more brutal fate. Separated families and victims of abduction continue to search for truth and contact with their loved ones.
In human rights and humanitarian work, we strive always to be as close as possible to the victims. The new OHCHR office in Seoul – positioned at the hub for information, analysis and networking in DPRK – promises to take the response of the United Nations human rights system to a new level. It will operate with full independence, integrity and in accordance with UN principles.
The Seoul office will monitor and document human rights issues in the DPRK, building on the landmark work of the Commission of Inquiry and Special Rapporteur. We firmly believe this will help lay the basis for future accountability.
The Seoul office also has a mandate for technical cooperation with member states, national institutions and civil society, and will work in partnership with you to strengthen our collective efforts for human rights change in DPRK.
The past year has brought unprecedented signs of engagement by DPRK with the international human rights system, and I have continued to extend an open hand of cooperation and assistance to implement the recommendations made by UN mechanisms. I note that the current drought in DPRK calls for humanitarian solidarity and support.
The Seoul office will also drive outreach, to bring our urgent messages about human rights in DPRK to the attention of a broader public.
It is fitting, in this country that is at the cutting edge of the information age, that my first task should be to introduce the official website of the United Nations Human Rights Office (Seoul)!
The website address is seoul.ohchr.org, and it features the latest news from the Seoul office as well as relevant reports and updates from the United Nations system. Importantly, the website is fully bilingual in English and Korean. We hope you will visit.
Our office is already “trending” very strongly on Korean social media, especially Naver. Please do connect with our Facebook, Twitter and Naver accounts – and for those “power bloggers” among you, please spread the word and show your support for human rights in the DPRK!
I would like to acknowledge in particular the work of the Special Rapporteur, Mr Marzuki Darusman, and the other members of the Commission of Inquiry who have built the momentum that has brought this issue to where it is today.
It gives me great pleasure to declare open the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Seoul), and to pledge our commitment to a better future for the people of DPRK. We count on your support.
For more information please contact:
In Geneva: Ravina Shamdasani: +41 22 917 9169 / firstname.lastname@example.org or Cecile Pouilly: +41 22 917 9310 / email@example.com
In Seoul: Rupert Colville (for the duration of the mission): SMS +41 79 506 1088 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul, in English and Korean: