South Korea’s ruling camp will cooperate for the parliamentary endorsement this month of a bill designed to help improve North Korea’s dismal of human rights conditions, officials from the government and the ruling party said Friday.
“We agreed that the National Assembly of South Korea should no longer sit idly by on the problem of human rights infringements in North Korea,” Rep. Lee Ju-young, the chief policymaker of the governing Grand National Party said after a policy coordination meeting with government officials.
The bill, among other things, calls for assistance to improve the North’s human rights record and humanitarian aid to North Koreans. North Korea has long been accused of human rights abuses, ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners to public executions and torture.
The bill has been gathering dust in the parliamentary judiciary committee since last year amid concerns that the proposed bill could further sour inter-Korean relations, which plunged to their lowest level in decades following two North Korean attacks that killed 50 South Koreans last year.
Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, in Friday’s meeting, renewed his call that the parliament should pass the bill this month.
The bill, if passed, could help “improve North Korea’s human rights and raise awareness,” he said.
Also on Friday, the South Korean Unification Ministry expressed regret over Pyongyang’s threat a day earlier to disclose voice recordings of a secret talk between the two sides in late May, where it claimed the South proposed three inter-Korean summits.
“We do not feel the need to react to the one-sided claim which distorted the facts,” Chun Hae-sung, the ministry’s spokesperson, said.
On Thursday, North Korea threatened to make public records of an unofficial meeting held in Beijing last month. Pyongyang claims the records prove it rejected a South Korean proposal to hold three inter-Korean summits and an envelope of cash.
It said Seoul officials had told North Korean counterparts that the meeting was arranged to discuss summit schedules under the direct direction of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
It also claimed that the South Koreans, after their proposal was rejected, offered cash, which North Korean officials refused to take.
The South Korean government rebuked the claims, saying the meeting was to get North Korea’s apology for the two attacks last year and that there was no envelope of cash.
By Lee Sun-young and news reports (firstname.lastname@example.org