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U.N. slams North Korea rights record after leader’s death

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 20, 2011 - 15:27

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UNITED NATIONS (AFP) ― The U.N. General Assembly on Monday condemned human rights abuses in North Korea but U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon vowed to maintain international aid for the country after the death of Kim Jong-il.

The 193-nation assembly passed the condemnation of the North by 123 votes to 16, with 51 abstentions. It was a record vote in favor but China, a key ally of the north, was among countries to oppose the resolution.

A single North Korean diplomat was in the assembly and later refuted the vote, without mentioning the new tensions surrounding his country.

The resolution raised “very serious concern” over the “torture” and “inhuman conditions of detention, public executions, extra-judicial and arbitrary detention” in North Korea. It also condemned the “existence of a large number of prison camps and the extensive use of forced labor.”

“There have never been such violations of human rights in my country as mentioned in the resolution,” said the North Korean diplomat.

He said the western backers of the resolution were seeking to “overthrow our political and social system by increasing international pressure against the DPRK” ― the country is officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“What kind of system we have is a matter to be decided by us,” the envoy said, describing the resolution as part of “a hotbed of confrontation and distrust.”

The U.N.’s South Korean leader meanwhile expressed condolences to the North’s people over the death of Kim.

“The secretary general reaffirms his commitment to peace and security on the Korean peninsula. The United Nations system will continue to help the people of the DPRK,” said U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.

Ban, a former foreign minister for the North’s arch-rival South Korea, extended his “sympathy” to the people of North Korea “at this time of their national mourning.”

The United Nations has been desperately trying to raise international funds to provide food for North Korea where there is a new food crisis. It appealed for $218 million this year but less than a fifth of that has been raised.

Ban has regularly expressed concern at the deadlock in international talks on the North’s nuclear arms program. He said last week that the mood on the Korean Peninsula was almost “frozen.”