The secrecy that surrounds North Korea, the lack of trustworthy information given out through official channels, and the difficulty in finding reliable news sources from within the country make it a country that is predominantly discussed in broad generalizations.
The world is aware that North Korea has a developed nuclear programme, that its ballistic capabilities are ever increasing and that there are large-scale human rights abuses taking place. The specifics, however, are far more difficult to ascertain.
Up until now, there have been some well documented testimonies on the human rights abuses taking place in North Korean labour camps, but only from the very small number of people who have managed to escape them. Two of the best known of these being Shin Dong-hyuk and Kim Hye-Sook, who have publicly testified on these issues.
There is set to be a breakthrough in the reportage of human rights abuse in the country though. Starting later this month, North Korean defectors and prison camp survivors will begin testifying at UN hearings in Seoul and Tokyo about human rights abuses, and are expected to include reports of torture and executions as well as food deprivation and arbitrary detentions.
Headed by Australian judge Michael Kirby, the UN expect to hear testimonies from around 40 witnesses, which many presume will reveal some shocking insights into the nature, scale and reality of human rights abuse in North Korea. The hope is that this evidence will help to amass evidence for the purposes of establishing accountability, and possibly bringing charges of crimes against humanity against the North Korean leadership. Moreover, it will allow for the acknowledgment of the suffering of the victims, according to Julie de Rivero of Human Rights Watch, thus clearly refuting North Korean denials of the allegations of human rights abuses made against them.
Let us hope that in at least one part of the world, some kind of justice, not just exposure, can be exacted for the victims of systematic atrocities and human rights abuse.