North Korea Mocks U.S. Over Eviction Crisis as New Deadline Looms

The North Korean Foreign Ministry has issued a scathing commentary on the United States' debate over extending a moratorium on evictions adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic and the White House's lack of authority to renew the measure as a new deadline loomed.

In an article published Thursday under the title "Dismal American Society Where Even Elementary Right to Existence Is Ruthlessly Violated," the North Korean Foreign Ministry railed against what it claimed to be U.S. hypocrisy for criticizing the human rights situations of other nations while the nation faced a looming crisis at home.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their precious lives because the U.S. has not properly responded to COVID-19 pandemic," the ministry said. "Beyond this shocking happenings, the living people are wandering in despair and pain without enjoying even the elementary right to existence. This is where the United States stands now."

Citing data that appeared to originate from a recent study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, the ministry noted that "6.5 million families and over 15 million inhabitants in the U.S. are now in the position to be forcibly evicted from their homes for their inability to pay the rents due to the insufficient income caused by COVID-19 pandemic, and this number is projected to further increase over time."

The ministry also referred to the initial measures to halt evictions taken under former President Donald Trump last September as "merely a stopgap measure designed to silence their complaints."

The commentary then referenced the extent of the internal political debate in the U.S. regarding legal authorities to maintain the anti-eviction order.

"The Administration and the Congress busied themselves with shifting responsibilities onto others, with the former insisting that the budgetary matter is within the competence of the Congress and the latter asserting that it hadn't received notification from the former that the 'eviction moratorium' is due to be expired," the ministry said. "The emergency meeting of the Congress convened somehow to discuss the extension of 'eviction moratorium' degenerated into a fruitless, point-scoring partisan fight.

As the moratorium expired, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an emergency extension of the ban for 60 days in COVID-19 hotspots, but this too was scolded by the North Korean Foreign Ministry as it argued: "a great number of inhabitants without ability to pay the rents are spending every day in worries and panic for fear of unforeseeable eviction."

Given the seriousness of the situation, the ministry chastised the U.S. for continuing to weigh in on the internal affairs of other nations.

"Notwithstanding this reality," the ministry said, "the United States, instead of taking measures to ensure the elementary right of the inhabitants to existence, is engrossed in meddling with others' internal affairs, impudently poking its nose into human rights situations of other countries."

Eviction, moratorium, protest, New, York, City
The North Korean Foreign Ministry criticized the U.S. for being concerned about other countries' human rights issues while unable to tackle a crisis at home. Above, activists hold a protest against evictions near City Hall on August 11, 2021, in New York City. Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images

A day before the message was issued, State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated to reporters what he called Biden's "commitment to placing democracy and human rights at the center of our foreign policy."

While the administration, like others before it, has called out alleged abuses in North Korea in the past, U.S. officials under Biden have focused more on the likes of Belarus, China and Cuba, which North Korea has defended in past statements criticizing the U.S. approach.

North Korea is currently going through a crisis of its own, and this has been acknowledged in recent remarks by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, as well as by North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, during a meeting last month of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The diplomat said that, in his country, the state provided full support for its citizens, including free healthcare and housing.

But a report issued shortly thereafter by Human Rights Watch accused North Korea of taking "hypocrisy to new heights" at the U.N. by claiming major accomplishments while actually failing to provide basic services and committing mass human rights abuses such as forced labor and imprisonment of its population.

The organization also alleged that China conducted forced repatriations of North Korean refugees, an allegation that the North Korean Foreign Ministry denied earlier this month.

"When it comes to 'Human Rights Watch,' it is a villainous 'human rights' plot organization which, describing itself as an international human rights body, has actively engaged in the anti-China 'human rights' rackets by the successive U.S. administrations," the ministry said at the time.

As for the U.S., the ministry said in its article on Thursday that "ensuring human rights in the U.S. is tantamount to building a castle in the air."

"Before talking impudently about 'human rights issue' of other countries, the U.S. should address the human rights problems of its own society which are daily getting worse owing to its anti-popular policies," the ministry said.

The White House also addressed the eviction issue on Thursday in a press release contending that the Biden administration, "has continued its all of government effort to keep Americans safe and housed."

"The Administration has been engaged for months in an all-out effort to push states and localities to get available emergency rental assistance delivered to families most in need and to take every step possible to protect renters at-risk of eviction," the White House said. "Those steps include engaging the local court system to ensure renters are aware of their rights and available assistance as well as implementing eviction diversion programs to help landlords and tenants find agreements that keep tenants housed."

DPRK, Kim, Jong Un, Pyongyang, apartments
North Korea has criticized the White House's lack of authority to extend the eviction moratorium. Above, North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un attends the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of 10,000 new apartments in Pyongyang on March 23, 2021. Korean Central News Agency

Despite a brief detente in 2018 as Trump and Kim pursued peace, the U.S. and North Korea remain at deep geopolitical odds since the collapse of peace talks between the longtime foes.

The Biden administration has said it was open to diplomacy with Pyongyang but reserved the right to respond along with allies such as South Korea and Japan in the event of any perceived provocations.

South Korea, for its part, has encouraged cross-border engagement, but, after a brief resumption of communications late last month, North Korea once again cut off contact on Tuesday as Washington and Seoul began preliminary training for joint military exercises set to begin Monday.

While Price reassured that such drills were "purely defensive in nature," North Korean officials have described them as disruptive to regional peace and stability.

In one of the most recent warnings, Kim Yong Chol, director of the ruling Korean Workers' Party Central Committee United Front Department, issued a press statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday that slammed the planned military maneuvers.

He accused South Korea of having "opted for [an] alliance with outsiders, not harmony with compatriots, escalation of tension, not détente, and confrontation, not improved relations."

"As we have already clarified, we will make them realize by the minute what a dangerous choice they made and what a serious security crisis they will face because of their wrong choice," Kim Yong Chol said. "They must be made to clearly understand how dearly they have to pay for answering our good faith with hostile acts after letting go the opportunity for improved inter-Korean relations."