photo visit of the Special Rapporteur to the DPRK

The Governmnet of the DPRK has taken positive steps on disability issues, but there is still a long way to go to realize the rights of persons with disabilities: “I hope that my visit will generate further opportunities for constructive engagement to advance the human rights of persons with disabilities in the DPRK.”

The Special Rapporteur undertook the first visit ever to DPRK by an independent expert designated by the Human Rights Council, from 3 to 8 May. She visited the cities of Pyongyang and Pongchon in the South Hwanghae Province, and met with Government officials, the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled, associations of persons with disabilities, the UN Country Team, international cooperation actors and the diplomatic community. 

In a press conference at the end of her visit, Ms. Devandas underscored that the State’s recent ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides an opportunity for the UN system and human rights mechanisms to continue the dialogue with the Government on these and other human rights issues. Furthermore, she encouraged the DPRK Government to reconsider its decision not to ratify the Optional Protocol to the CRPD.

Although most of her requests for meetings and visits to places of interest were accepted, the Special Rapporteur could not obtain information on access to justice and deprivation of liberty of persons with disabilities. Her requests to meet with the Central Court, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of City Management, the Ministry of State Construction Control, the Central Bureau of Statistics, and a visit to a mental health facility could not be accommodated.

Preliminary findings and recommendations

Considering that the DPRK has ratified the CRPD only five months ago, it is fair to acknowledge that implementation is still at an early stage. Progress has been made in areas such as the recognition of the Korean sign language as an official language of the country, as well as in access to information for blind persons. The Law on the Protection of the People with Disabilities brought the definition of disability in line with the CRPD, established a central coordination mechanism for the protection of persons with disabilities and efforts to collect disability-related data.

However, there is a range of challenges in realizing the rights for all persons with disabilities beyond the blind and the deaf, or those with physical impairments. The medical model of disability -which attempts to ‘cure’ and ‘rehabilitate’ persons with disabilities- remains prevalent and influences the way in which they are perceived and treated by society.

Much of the legal framework also needs to be reviewed. Pejorative language to refer to persons with disabilities and the widespread use of the terms “dumb” can be found in various laws. Of particular concern are certain provisions that are not in line with article 12 of the CRPD, which recognises the full legal capacity of persons with disabilities.

Concrete measures by the government are needed to raise awareness about the dignity and capabilities of persons with disabilities, and to progressively implement an inclusive quality education system for all learners with disabilities.

Physical accessibility of public infrastructure also needs to be improved, and the participation of persons with disabilities in society, including women with disabilities must be increased.

Learn more about the Special Rapporteur's preliminary recommendations. 

Meeting of Ms. Devandas Aguilar with DPRK Government Officials

Fragment of the Special Rapporteur's meeting with Government officials, in which she explains her role as provider of technical assistance for governments to implement the CRPD across state policies and programs. 
  • Copyright 2016