TOKYO — The head of a U.N. probe Friday urged North Korea to respond to horrific testimony of human rights abuses heard in Seoul and Tokyo.
Retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, who led the three-member Commission of Inquiry, also called for increased awareness about the plight of some 95,000 formerly Japan-based ethnic Koreans who migrated to North Korea decades ago.
Since the late 1950s, the ethnic Koreans went to the North believing they would find a "Paradise on Earth", only to find poverty and discrimination.
Some of them managed to return to Japan, but most of them have remained there.
"Evidence we have received has indicated that, from the minute of their arrival, most of them were shocked and suffered deprivations of their fundamental human rights," Kirby said.
The Japanese public has given significant support for the issue of its nationals kidnapped by North Korean agents during the Cold War era to train spies in Japanese language and customs.
An improved level of "understanding" should also be shown for the plight of the ethnic Koreans, Kirby said.
The commission spent Thursday and Friday in Tokyo collecting testimonies of human rights violations in North Korea.
The Commission of Inquiry also plans to hear evidence in Thailand, Britain and the United States.
The team will investigate a wide range of human rights concerns including starvation and treatment of political prisoners.
The commission — the first U.N. expert panel to officially examine North Korea's rights record — spent five days in Seoul collecting harrowing testimony of rights abuses in the isolated state.
The final report is due to be submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March next year, and Kirby said he expected the United Nations to act on any recommendations it might make.
Kirby has repeatedly appealed to North Korea to grant his team access. He said it was in Pyongyang's interest to respond if the report was to fully reflect their views.
"We will continue to reach out to North Korea and give them that opportunity and we hope they will accept it before too long," he said.
© AFP 2014