North Korea (Hansard, 2 March 2004)
HC Deb 02 March 2004 vol 418 cc836-8W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to promote cultural and sporting exchanges between the United Kingdom and North Korea. [157539]

Mr. Rammell

We are not specifically promoting any cultural or sporting events between the UK and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the(a) size and (b) value of heroin exports from North Korea in each of the last five years. [157543]

Mr. Rammell

There is no evidence that heroin has been trafficked through North Korea to the UK in significant quantities during the period in question.

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with(a) the UNHCR in Geneva and (b) his counterparts in the European Union about possible visits by international inspection teams to assess prison conditions in North Korea. [157537]

Mr. Rammell

UNHCR's responsibility is for the welfare of refugees and, as such, it has no mandate to inspect prisons in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

In the EU, the issue has been discussed by member states regularly. The resolution on DPRK at the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2003, tabled by the EU, included a specific request for the North Korean authorities to allow inspection visits by international independent monitors.

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the size of the prison population in North Korea. [157538]

Mr. Rammell

The US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, in a report dated October 2003, estimated the prison population of North Korea to be around two hundred thousand.

We have no access to any more accurate and reliable figures.

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the nature and extent of the United Kingdom's diplomatic ties with North Korea are. [157542]

Mr. Rammell

The UK and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) established full diplomatic relations on 12 December 2000. The British Embassy in Pyongyang was established in July 2001, and the DPRK Embassy in London was established in November 2002.

Through both Embassies we ensure that we take regular opportunities to emphasise to the DPRK authorities our strong concerns on human rights and on the nuclear issue. We make clear that the scope of our co-operation with the DPRK will remain severely limited until progress is made on meeting these concerns.

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his estimate is of per capita income in(a) North Korea and (b) South Korea in 2004. [157544]

Mr. Rammell

South Korea's average income per capita in 2002 (latest year for which actual figures are available) was US$9,979. This year, the figure is expected to reach around US$12,000, owing to economic growth and appreciation of the Korean won against the US dollar.

The North Korean government does not publish economic statistics. Reliable figures for per capita incomes are therefore unavailable. However, the Bank of Korea (South Korea's central bank) estimate average per capita incomes in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 2002 was US$760. The figure is unlikely to have changed significantly since then.

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of trade sanctions by the United States on the economy of North Korea. [157556]

Mr. Rammell

The US lifted trade sanctions on North Korea in 2000, although US exports of arms and certain products with possible military use remain banned. Despite the lifting of sanctions, trade flows are small—IMF figures for 2002 show the US exporting only US$25 million worth of goods to North Korea in 2002 and importing less than US$1 million.

Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the incidence of(a) infanticide and (b) torture in prisons in North Korea. [157568]

Mr. Rammell

We are appalled by the reports of infanticide, torture and other inhumane treatment carried out in North Korean prisons. We have expressed our concerns regularly to the North Korean government at both ministerial and official levels, and have called for access by international monitors to verify the conditions in North Korean prisons. I recently called in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Ambassador to register my strong concerns.

GLOBAL ISLES COURT OF RECORD