Amid Kim Jong Un health rumors, any North Korea power transition ‘likely the only opportunity’ for human rights: watchdog

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With speculation swirling over Kim Jong Un’s health, human rights groups are expressing hope that a transition of power may bring a brighter future after decades of torment in North Korea.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, told Fox News in a statement that any change in North Korean leadership could signify an opportunity to see a "historic resurgence of human rights."

"The Kim dynasty is responsible for perpetuating deplorable human rights conditions in the name of propping up the regime," Curry said. "The death or incapacitation of Kim Jong Un is likely the only opportunity for this generation to see a historic resurgence of human rights protections for North Korean citizens."

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The Hermit Kingdom sits at No. 1 in the World Watch List as the most dangerous place to be a Christian, according to Open Doors 2020 World Watch List.

In this undated file photo provided by the North Korean government on April 12, 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects an air defense unit in western area, North Korea.

In this undated file photo provided by the North Korean government on April 12, 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects an air defense unit in western area, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

The world awaits news about the status of Kim, who is believed to be 36 years old, after he missed an April 15 commemoration of the 108th birthday of his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, and unverified reports have emerged about his health.

Open Doors USA previously reported that Christians and other religious minorities are at greater risk amid the coronavirus pandemic and with uncertainty around Kim's health, those groups are also at greater risk during any transition of power.

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Curry points to previous transitions of power and how the dictatorial successor uses the abuse as a way to "solidify their total authority."

"We are calling on Kim’s sister or any other appointed leadership to take a different approach for the sake of North Korean citizens and for the long-term prosperity of the Korean peninsula," Curry added.

In this April 11, 2020, file photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang.

In this April 11, 2020, file photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

“We admonish the North Korean government to usher in a new era of peace by starting a fresh conversation about civil and religious freedoms," Curry concluded. "We encourage them to take an important first step by inviting the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom to visit North Korea in discussion of the now-critical path toward full human rights protections.”

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Amid worldwide speculation of Kim's health, on Monday North Korea state media relayed a message purportedly by the dictator, thanking workers building a tourism zone in a region where his signature train was recently spotted.

The message did not mention Kim's activities or health condition. It also did not include images or videos of the Hermit Kingdom's leader to go along with the report.

Meanwhile, a top South Korean official said his country remains confident there have been no "unusual developments" in North Korea.

The comments came the day after a key aide to the president of South Korea insisted to Fox News that Kim was "alive and well."

"Our government position is firm," Chung-in Moon, foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, told Fox News. "Kim Jong Un is alive and well. He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected."

Fox News' Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.