The Korea Herald


Seoul welcomes UN resolution slamming NK rights abuses

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Nov. 15, 2017 - 18:29

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Seoul on Wednesday welcomed a United Nations panel’s adoption of a resolution urging North Korea to improve its human rights conditions.

“The government welcomes the North Korean human rights resolution which was adopted in consensus by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly at its 72nd session and where South Korea participated as a co-sponsor among 61 nations,” the Foreign Ministry said in a commentary released in the name of spokesman Noh Kyu-duk.

(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

The government is also fully aware of fresh concerns raised by the General Assembly regarding the now-halted reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and human rights conditions of the foreign prisoners held captive by the reclusive regime, it added.

On Tuesday, the assembly’s Third Committee on humanitarian issues endorsed the document for the 13th consecutive year, which allowed the resolution to be put to a full UN General Assembly vote in December.

“Serious violations of human rights are committed in a widespread and systematic way, with disregard for international law, and they are too often overlooked due to the headline-grabbing missile and nuclear issue,” the committee said in a statement read prior to the adoption of the document.

The South Korean government had participated in drafting the resolution, an unnamed Foreign Ministry official said earlier this month referring to the draft submitted on Nov. 1 for review.

The text overall highlights the extensive body of information collected and released by the UN Commission of Inquiry in 2014 that details abuses ranging from torture, rape and public executions to retaliation against asylum seekers repatriated from abroad.

On top of the North Korean regime’s acts of abuse against its citizens, improvement of fundamental conditions for foreign detainees in the North with access to diplomatic missions in the country and arrangements to “confirm their status and to communicate with their families,” was listed as a key issue.

Three Americans and six South Koreans are believed to be held captive in the North at the moment. In June, the mysterious death of American college student Otto Warmbier made headlines as he was returned to the US in a coma after being held prisoner in the North for 17 months.

On families separated by war, the document labeled the issue an “urgent humanitarian concern,” citing the age and physical status of the remaining family members, and requested both Koreas to resume the meetings that were halted in late 2015. There are some 60,000 people in South Korea separated from family members in the North, with their average age being 81, President Moon Jae-in noted in a speech last month.

Seoul in July offered to Pyongyang to hold military talks and a separate Red Cross meeting to discuss reunions of such families, but the North issued no response.

The resolution also criticized Pyongyang for diverting its resources to pursue nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles instead of helping its people, over half of whom need food and improved medical care. The issue has been a main concern surrounding the South Korean government’s recent decision to provide $8 million in humanitarian aid via UN agencies.

North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Ja Song-nam, said his country “categorically” rejects the resolution and left the meeting room abruptly after giving a speech condemning the human rights committee’s decision.

“The draft resolution represents a product of the political and military confrontation plot and the conspiracy of the US and other hostile forces to (North Korea), and the extreme manifestation of politicization, selectivity and the double standards of human rights,” Ja said.

The adoption of the resolution comes as the Moon administration is pursuing a two-track policy of seeking dialogue and sanctions with its wayward neighbor.

By Jung Min-kyung (