February 17, 2015 / 9:04 PM / 3 years ago

U.N. rights judge wants balloons, hackers to get message to North Korea

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of a U.N. Commission of Inquiry said on Tuesday more efforts were needed, including the use of balloons and computer hacking, to tell the North Korean people about its damning report on human rights conditions in their country.

Retired Australian Judge Michael Kirby Kirby said it was “completely unacceptable” for North Koreans to be kept in the dark about the commission’s report, which compared abuses in their country to Nazi-era atrocities.

Speaking at a Washington conference, he highlighted recommendations from the Bush Institute think tank that hackers, balloons and even drones should be used to overcome secretive North Korea’s information barriers.

Kirby, who spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, questioned whether South Koreawas being cautious about using balloons to take messages north across the border to avoid damaging its long-term strategy of national reunification.

Turning to fellow panelist Lee Jung-hoon, South Korea’s ambassador for human rights, Kirby said another way to get the details of the report into North Korea would be to hack into its closed Internet, or intranet, system.

“You have some of the cleverest technicians in the world,” he said to Lee. “You can’t tell me ... that there wouldn’t be a technological way to get into the Intranet to get this in - if there’s a will.”

Lee said South Koreans were not against using balloons and it was important to find other ways to get information to North Korea, including via data sticks and SMS messages.

Seoul has recently sought to dissuade activists from launching balloons while it tries to engage Pyongyang in dialogue.

Kirby’s commission issued its report a year ago. In December, the U.N. General Assembly urged the U.N. Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Kirby said the commission would like to engage with North Korean officials, but the latter were only willing to do so “on limited terms,” while North Korea’s main ally, China, had not allowed U.N. researchers to visit border regions.

He said he would have welcomed North Korea’s attendance at Tuesday’s conference - something that was not possible due to U.S. rules requiring North Korean officials to get U.S. government permission to travel outside of New York City, where they are representatives at the United Nations.

On Monday, North Korea’s U.N. ambassador said North Korea was not worried about the ICC threat because it was not guilty, and wanted to attend the meeting to defend itself.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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