SEOUL/NEW YORK -- South Korea on Tuesday hailed the adoption of a United Nations resolution on North Korea's human rights abuses.
The foreign ministry said the country supported the resolution from the basic position of making joint efforts with the international community for "substantive improvement" in the human rights of North Korean people.
Hours earlier, the UN passed the resolution, which calls for accountability for gross human rights violations in the communist nation, by consensus at a General Assembly session in New York.
It marked the 14th consecutive year the global body has passed such a document.
This year's move came amid brisk diplomacy with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
Seoul's foreign ministry noted that the resolution welcomes "the ongoing diplomatic efforts" involving North Korea and inter-Korean summit agreements as well as the resumption of reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
Negotiations on denuclearization have stalled, and the resolution served to highlight the lack of progress also in addressing the serious human rights abuses blamed on Pyongyang's regime.
The General Assembly "condemns the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in and by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the resolution says, referring the North by its official name.
In particular it cites abuses the UN Commission of Inquiry said in 2014 could amount to crimes against humanity -- and the continuing impunity for such violations -- including torture, rape, public executions, and the use of the death penalty for political and religious reasons.
The assembly "encourages" the UN Security Council to "take appropriate action to ensure accountability," such as by considering referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court.
It also calls on the council to consider further sanctions to "target effectively those who appear to be most responsible for human rights violations," an apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The UN has repeatedly called for such action since 2014.
North Korea's top envoy to the UN rejected the allegations, calling them "most despicable false words" fabricated by a handful of defectors who escaped the country after having committed crimes.
He also attacked Japan, one of the two main authors of the resolution. The text was jointly penned by the European Union, with contributions from other member states, including South Korea.
"My delegation expresses deep concern and surprise to the fact that criminal state Japan, which committed A-class crimes against humanity, such as kidnapping and forced drafting under sexual slavery in the past, is talking about human rights issue in the DPRK instead of liquidation of its dirty human rights record and official apology and compensation to victims," Amb. Kim Song said at the UN session.
This year's resolution contains reference to last December's UN Security Council resolution in which all UN member states are required to repatriate North Korean workers within two years.
The workers are thought to be a source of income for the North Korean government as it pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
The US withdrew its request for a session earlier this month after securing only eight of the nine votes necessary.
North Korean officials circulated a statement to the UN press corps Monday claiming that the foiled meeting was proof that it was correct in arguing the Security Council is not the forum for human rights discussions. (Yonhap)