BUSAN - South Korea said yesterday that it will abstain from voting on a proposed U.N. resolution on North Korea`s human rights violations.
The European Union submitted the resolution to the U.N. earlier this month to the U.N. General Assembly, expressing its "serious concern" at the communist state`s "systemic, widespread and grave violations of human rights."
"Our country will abstain from the vote after presenting an explanation of the concerns about North Korea`s human rights situations, but at the same time, North Korea`s human rights problems should be handled within the overall context of our policy of inter-Korean relations," Kang Kyung-wha, the director general for International Organizations of the Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Busan, where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is being held.
She made the comment hours before a vote on the motion at the General Assembly in New York. Korean officials said the resolution is likely to be passed.
Although the U.N. Human Rights Commission has adopted a resolution on the communist state every year since 2003, South Korea has either abstained or was absent from the voting sessions.
Seoul has been careful about its support for such a resolution because it would spoil "the rapprochement and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula, resolving North`s nuclear crisis peacefully, building trust between South and North," Kang said.
The EU presented that it has "deep concern at the precarious humanitarian situation in the country, in particular the prevalence of infant malnutrition, which still affects the physical and mental development of a significant proportion of children."
However the EU has failed to get support from South Korea since its similar resolution in 2002.
Jay Lefkowitz, U.S. special envoy on human rights issues in North Korea, will reportedly visit South Korea and other Asian countries in a couple of weeks to discuss how to improve North`s conditions.
This is his first visit to the region and he is expected to participate in a forum on North Korea`s human rights situation in Seoul next month.
The former aide to U.S. President George W. Bush was appointed in August as the special envoy after his country enacted the North Korea Human Rights Act last year.
The envoy will reportedly talk about his Asian travels and action plan with Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when they return home this weekend from meetings with Asia-Pacific Rim leaders.
Since the historic inter-Korean summit in June 2000, Seoul has conducted a "sunshine policy" for cooperation with the North, which led to many inter-Korean dialogues and economic exchanges and reduced tension between the two countries.
The two Koreas remain divided since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice but without a peace treaty agreed.
By Annie I. Bang