North Korean flag (AFP-Yonhap)
The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Tuesday condemning human rights violations in North Korea once again. South Korea decided not to co-sponsor it for the third year in a row.
The UN’s top human rights body passed the resolution by consensus for the 19th straight year during its 46th session in Geneva.
For the third consecutive year, South Korea opted out of co-sponsoring the bill, which denounces the regime’s human rights abuses, taking part in the consensus process only.
Seoul had put its name on the list from 2009 to 2018, but since 2019 it has distanced itself from the issue amid the government’s efforts toward engagement with the North.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the decision was based on “comprehensive consideration of various situations.”
As in previous years, the resolution condemns in the strongest terms the regime’s “long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and other human rights abuses.”
It urged the North’s government to acknowledge its crimes and human rights abuses and to take immediate steps to end them.
The resolution also raised deep concern that the human rights situation could “further deteriorate” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing the importance of “timely assistance,” and called on Pyongyang to allow international humanitarian organizations to enter the country and provide assistance.
The report also stressed the urgency of the issue of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and called for the resumption of reunions.
For the first time, the resolution also mentioned the continued rights violations affecting unrepatriated prisoners of war and their descendants.
The annual resolution, spearheaded by the European Union, was sponsored by 43 countries, including Japan and the US, which rejoined the council early this year following its withdrawal in 2018 during the Trump administration.
With a shift in foreign policy under the Biden administration that put human rights at its core, Washington is expected to continue calling out human rights abuses in Pyongyang.
During US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Seoul last week, the top envoy slammed Pyongyang’s continued “systematic and widespread abuses against its own people” and called on others to stand with “people demanding their fundamental rights and freedoms and against those who repress them.”
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org