July 11, 2018 10:49
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea said Tuesday that the human rights issue must not be sidelined as ties between the two Koreas thaw.
Tomás Ojea Quintana told reporters in Seoul that there can be no "genuine, peaceful and sustainable transition" without resolving the human rights problem.
He warned that some rights groups here are disappointed and are given fewer opportunities to voice their concerns, and singled out the government's decision to cancel the opening of an office that was intended to fund them.
Quintana also met two of the 12 North Korean restaurant workers in China who defected to South Korea in April of 2016 in what North Korea alleges was an "abduction."
"In regards to those who talked to me, it's clear that there were some shortcomings in regards to how they were brought to South Korea," he said.
He said the defectors were "subject to some kind of deceit in regard to where they were going" and urged on the South Korean government to launch a thorough investigation on how they were led to their arrival in the South.
"There's a need to respect their rights as victims," Quintana said, adding that it would constitute a "crime" if they were brought to the South against their will.
Quintana admitted he does not know the views of the other 10. But he dismissed North Korea's calls for South Korea to return them, saying Pyongyang should not be determining their fate and the choice of whether to stay or go should be the women's alone.
He also urged both North and South Korea to refrain from politicizing the issue.
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