The Korea Herald


South Korea joins discussion for drafting UN resolution on NK human rights

Seoul expected to co-sponsor the UN resolution for first time in four years

By Jo He-rim

Published : Oct. 20, 2022 - 17:33

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United Nations Human Rights Council session held in New York. (Yonhap) United Nations Human Rights Council session held in New York. (Yonhap)

South Korea has begun consultation with the European Union on this year's EU-made draft resolution on North Korea's human rights abuses, breaking its hiatus to speak out against Pyongyang's violations.

According to local sources, the European Union has drawn up a draft resolution addressing the human rights situation in North Korea, and is consulting with major countries for its review.

The EU-drafted resolution will be submitted to the United Nations’ Third Committee before it gets delivered to the UN Human Rights Council for adoption, around in December.

Until this year, the 47-member council has adopted the resolution condemning human rights violations by the North for 20 consecutive years.

Since 2016, the resolutions have been passed unanimously for adoption. The resolution proposal would be put to a vote if at least one member state makes the request.

While the UN resolution is not legally binding, it can put pressure on the North as the adoption of the resolution reflects the international community’s opinion.

South Korea is expected to co-sponsor the resolution for the first time in four years, under the Yoon Suk-yeol administration.

For 11 years from 2008 to 2018, Seoul had co-sponsored the resolution until the Moon Jae-in administration declined to join the sponsorship from 2019, citing its inter-Korean peace efforts.

Under then-President Moon, the country took a "friendly approach" toward the North to engage in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. At the time, Seoul was passive in speaking out about North Korean human rights abuse cases, as the regime reacted strongly against criticisms.

North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song denounced the United States and the EU for the draft resolution, saying their criticisms on human rights issues were "political."

At the 77th session of the UN's Third Committee, which oversees social, humanitarian and cultural issues, Kim claimed that the act of raising allegations on human rights abuses to the international community was aimed at "achieving political goals."

The North Korean envoy also countered by saying that Western countries witness serious violations of human rights within their own borders. He said that Pyongyang prioritizes protecting human rights in North Korea.

In South Korea, the Yoon administration, which takes a hard-line stance against the North, has stepped up its criticisms of human rights abuse cases in North Korea.

The Yoon administration, which was inaugurated in May, appointed international relations professor Lee Shin-wha as the ambassador-at-large on North Korean human rights issues in July, a post that had been vacant for the past five years under Moon.

The latest UN resolution adopted in April condemned the North's continued rights violations and highlighted worsening humanitarian conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Supporters of the resolution also urged the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to strengthen its efforts on accountability, including monitoring and documentation of human rights abuses in the North.

As the UN resolution has always passed unanimously or with majority votes, the South Korean ambassador-at-large on North Korean human rights predicted it is likely for this year's draft resolution to be adopted by the UNHRC. Still, it is important that the envisioned resolution receives a lot of support from member states to yield influence, Lee said.

By Jo He-rim (