Seoul Should Be at Forefront in Fight for N.Korea Human Rights

      March 29, 2010 13:12

      The UN Human Rights Council on Friday adopted a resolution condemning "grave, widespread and systematic human rights abuses" in North Korea. Each year since 2003, the UNHRC and the UN General Assembly have adopted resolutions condemning human rights abuses in North Korea.

      UN Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn submitted to the global body a recommendation on improving the human right situation in the North which contained 169 different categories and was prepared based on the recommendations of the 192 member countries. North Korea promptly rejected 50 of the recommendations, including an end to public executions, halting torture and other inhumane forms of punishment, ending forced enslavement, and guaranteeing the free travel of North Koreans both domestically and overseas and said it would merely "consider at a future date" the remaining 117.

      After rejecting such basic requirements of any civilized country, North Korea claimed that the UN report stemmed from "malicious political intentions" by the U.S., Japan and the EU aimed at using the issue to get rid of North Korea.

      North Korea apparently lambasted South Korean officials and executives of tour operator Hyundai Asan, who visited the North on Thursday and Friday, for demanding safety guarantees for visitors from the South after a tourist was shot and killed by North Korean soldiers in Mt. Kumgang in July 2008. "The conservative political gang in the South, who were in trouble due to mass protests at that time, made a huge fuss as if we had deliberately killed an 'innocent' tourist," the North was quoted as telling the South Koreans. "But it was a necessary exercise of self-defense."

      Rather than telling the South Korean delegation that it would be difficult to accept calls for an investigation into the shooting, an apology, a pledge that such incidents will not happen again and security guarantees for tourists from the South, North Korea actually blamed the South for creating a "fuss." That sort of country will not change no matter how many resolutions the UN adopts.

      It is time to make things extremely difficult for North Korea unless it takes at least some steps to improve the human rights situation. "It is time for the highest level of the UN, the Security Council, to step up," Muntarbhorn said. The Security Council members -- the U.S., China, the U.K., France and Russia -- must tackle North Korea's human rights situation and threaten the North with even harsher sanctions to get it to pay attention.

      Seoul must play a leading role in these efforts. The South Korean government must undertake a wide range of measures, including assessing the human rights situation in North Korea and coming up with an action plan. South Korea could start by joining hands with international human rights advocacy groups who help sick children and elderly people in North Korea. Such steps will demonstrate to the world that the human rights situation in North Korea is a pressing concern.

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