193524 “A tool of warfare”: Economic sanctions and the right to health in North Korea

Monday, November 9, 2009: 1:06 PM

Sanghyuk S. Shin, MSc , Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health (Global Health), San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA
Christine Ahn, MA , Korea Policy Institute, Los Angeles, CA
Ricky Y. Choi, MD, MPH , Asian Health Services, Oakland, CA
Haeyoung Kim , Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Cambridge, MA
Terry Park , Cultural Studies Graduate Group, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
In the current era of neoliberal globalization, basic human rights have become inextricably tied to forces beyond national borders. Socio-economic rights, including the right to health, are particularly susceptible to policies crafted by powerful third-party states and international bodies that directly impact the local availability of resources. Despite this, human rights organizations have focused exclusively on state culpability for human rights violations within its borders. In this presentation, we examine human rights advocacy for North Koreans in the context of ongoing U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions against North Korea. Economic sanctions have been called “a tool of warfare” for causing widespread human suffering. Public health is affected because economic sanctions result in extreme scarcity of resources that are essential to health, including medicine, food, clean water, and adequate housing. North Korea, which has been the under U.S. sanctions since 1950 and U.N. sanctions since 2006, has experienced deteriorating public health, characterized by widespread malnutrition, escalating infant and child mortality, and dramatic increases in other adverse health outcomes. However, organizations that advocate for North Korean human rights have focused exclusively on the North Korean state's culpability for rights violations. This narrow focus has prevented human rights organizations from confronting a major source of everyday suffering in North Korea. As a consequence, prevailing human rights efforts do little to promote the right to health of North Koreans. Public health and human rights advocates must rethink the way they approach human rights in North Korea by considering the detrimental health effects of sanctions.

Learning Objectives:
Describe mechanisms by which economic sanctions affect the right to health. Discuss the limitations of human rights advocacy that is based exclusively on state culpability for rights violations.

Keywords: Economic Sanctions, Human Rights

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a Masters degree in epidemiology with experience practicing public health in a developing country. I also have lengthy experience in advocacy for a U.S. policy towards North Korea that is based on peace and human rights. I am currently a fellow with the Korea Policy Institute, working on human rights and economic sanctions in North Korea.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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