Organizations representing 200 groups urge Seoul to discuss “dire” in-country situation
Seoul must raise human rights issues in all future talks between the two Koreas – including an upcoming summit on April 27 – a letter delivered by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and signed by organizations representing 200 NGOs said on Tuesday.
The letter, which comes seventeen days before a historic meeting between DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, urges the ROK government to act on United Nations human rights recommendations.
“We welcome the renewed inter-Korean dialogue and the recent progress in inter-Korean relations, but it will only be meaningful to the people of North Korea if it leads to improvement in the dire human rights situation in North Korea,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement accompanying the letter on Tuesday.
“As the UN Security Council has recognized, human rights abuses in North Korea and threats to international peace and security are intrinsically connected.”
The letter calls on Moon to press Kim Jong Un to agree to regular meetings of families separated by the Korean War, and to accept information exchanges and “inter-Korean people-to-people contact.”
While inter-Korean contact has taken place in recent months, the two Koreas remain at an apparent impasse on the issue of family reunions, which Pyongyang has insisted cannot take place until 13 defectors it claims were “abducted” by the South are returned.
Tuesday’s letter also urged President Moon to press Kim Jong Un to accept humanitarian aid and accept international standards on its delivery.
“These standards include access throughout the country to determine needs and the ability to visit places where food and other aid is delivered,” the letter reads.
The statement concluded that although “raising human rights issues with the DPRK is a daunting task,” South Korea must maintain a strong stance on the issue.
South Korea’s foreign minister told press last week that while Seoul would “continue to endeavor” to push the North Korea human rights issue at the United Nations, “more preparation” was needed before raising the issue during inter-Korean talks.
While not ruling out that it would be on the agenda, foreign minister Kang Kyung-hwa said it was “hard to say what will be included or not.”
Kang’s comments followed a commentary by North Korean state media denouncing the Moon administration’s support for a March resolution by the UN condemning Pyongyang’s record on human rights.
Describing the resolution as “a product of the crimes and plot-breeding to tarnish the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) urged the Moon administration to “exercise special deliberation and behave with discretion.”
One human rights campaigner, whose organization was a signatory to Tuesday’s letter to the Blue House, said he did not think that the South Korean government would respond to the petition.
“I have little expectation that the South Korean government would take this letter seriously from our previous experience,” Hubert Younghwan Lee, executive director at the Transitional Justice Working Group, told NK News.
“Human rights organizations requested to have a meeting with government officials several times, but so far all attempts have been ignored,” he continued. “Of course North Korea doesn’t want to talk about it, but true negotiation should mention subjects that are not very favored by the other party.”
One Seoul-based United Nations official, however, welcomed the letter.
“The United Nations has long realized that peace and security and human rights go hand in hand,” said Signe Poulsen, OHCHR representative in Seoul, told NK News on Tuesday.
“The letter reiterates the universality of human rights. It reminds us that we cannot delay addressing human rights.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Seoul must raise human rights issues in all future talks between the two Koreas – including an upcoming summit on April 27 – a letter delivered by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and signed by organizations representing 200 NGOs said on Tuesday. The letter, which comes seventeen days before a historic meeting between DPRK leader Kim