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UN expert condemns Seoul for not sponsoring NK human rights resolution

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea. (AFP)
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea. (AFP)

A UN envoy on North Korea condemned South Korea for opting out of co-sponsoring a North Korean human rights resolution at the United Nations, saying this sends the wrong signal to the reclusive regime.

“They should have a more vocal and outspoken position with regards to the human rights agenda as it was in the past,” Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said during a recent interview with Radio Free Asia. “I would like to see South Korea to have a more participation for the resolution at the United Nations.”

On Wednesday the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, which oversees humanitarian issues, passed the North Korean human rights resolution for the 16th consecutive year by consensus. It will officially be approved at the General Assembly next month. 

For the second consecutive year, South Korea did not co-sponsor the resolution that calls for improved human rights conditions in the North, but only participated in the consensus process.

Seoul has been distancing itself from the resolution, which condemns the regime’s “long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights,” amid its engagement efforts with the North.

Quintana said Seoul should not stay silent on the human rights issue for the sake of political negotiations.

The annual resolution, led by the European Union, was sponsored by 58 countries, including the US and the UK, this year. Seoul sponsored the bill from 2008 to 2018, but decided not to join last year, drawing heavy backlash from the country’s conservative lawmakers as well as from human rights watchers.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)

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