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평화군축센터    한반도 평화를 위해 비핵군축운동을 합니다

  • English
  • 2005.11.15
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- A political approach can not improve Human Rights in North Korea

- The North Korean authorities should be open in the discussion of human rights and make information on its human rights public


At the same time as a draft resolution against the human rights record in North Korea was submitted by the EU to the UN General Assembly on 3 November 2005, the controversy surrounding North Korean human rights has come to the surface again in South Korea. Concerns are especially concentrated on which position the government will take in the vote at the General Assembly. We are deeply concerned that human rights issues in North Korea are being treated as a political controversy at both domestic and international levels without genuine consideration of how to practically improve the situation in North Korea.

We recommend that the government of South Korea carefully consider, when it is at the General Assembly, if the UN resolution will actually help improve the human rights situation in North Korea. As revealed in April this year when the UN Commission of Human Rights adopted a resolution against the human rights record in North Korea, we are much concerned that the human rights disputes at the UN are misused by member states as a means of putting pressure on a particular state in accordance with their own political interests. The subsequent adoption of resolutions only results in resistance by the country in question and not actual improvement of its human rights situation.

This has become clear with the silence of international organizations on the subjects of the brutal human rights infringement in Guantanamo Prison and the USA’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. The reason that UN resolutions are seen as being one-sided exercises in ‘naming and shaming’ without any real effectiveness is because trust in the UN resolutions has been lost with this politically motivated discussion on human rights. Thus, it is not advisable either to urge adoption of the UN Resolution on human rights violation in North Korea, or to promote conflict and controversy regarding the resolution.

Rather it is necessary to concentrate on looking for a different way to practically improve the human rights record in North Korea, preventing the issue from being politically misused. However, the South Korean government has been neither constructive nor active in responding to the improper movements against the issue occurring at the UN and in states such as the USA and Japan. Of course we understand that it is difficult for the S. Korean government to broach the subject of North Korean human rights in their current position - faced with the North’s inflexible attitude on the issue and while trying at the same time to promote North-South reconciliation - but the government of the South should actively try to make international society understand that human rights in the North cannot be improved by political threat or pressure, but that international cooperation and dialogue with the North is the right approach to the issue. The South government has also to persuade the North to accept the human rights program suggested by international organizations. In addition, the government of the South needs to approach gradually but actively the human rights issues in the North by suggesting dialogue to reform the parts of the legal system remaining in both Koreas that are inconsistent with human rights norms. This approach would also be helpful to the further development of the reconciliation between the two Koreas.

It is also important to create a reconciling atmosphere at East Asian regional level under which the government of the North would make efforts to improve its human rights situation. It does not appear likely that the North will accept any one of the resolutions driven by the EU, the USA or Japan in view of ongoing confrontational relationships with the USA and Japan and the current break in human rights talks with the EU. Rather, this approach is apt to make relations with the North worse. We are confident that it is desirable for human rights improvement in the North to promptly initiate talks among the parties involved to create normalized relations between North Korea and the USA as well as between North Korea and Japan, to resolve nuclear matters in the North, and to build peace on the Korean peninsula. The EU is also recommended to concentrate its efforts on bilateral dialogue with the North, rather than making offensive moves through the UN.

Above all, even after taking into account the fact that the issue is being politicized and receiving criticism in foreign countries as well as in South Korea, the North Korean government is asked to urgently change its posture and make efforts to respond to its human rights situation. Though North Korea has tried to incorporate some measures to protect human rights in recent years and some of its alleged violations have not yet been substantiated, the recent consecutive resolutions submitted to the UN have, in one respect, resulted from the North’s own position in which it neither recognizes its human rights issues, nor shows to international society the intention to improve the situation.

Considering that no country in the world is free from human rights violations, North Korea too has to make public its human rights information and grant access to international organizations. In addition, North Korea needs to be flexible in discussing its human rights issues both at multilateral and bilateral stages. We are very concerned if North Korea continuously rejects human rights talks with other states as well as international organizations. In that situation, North Korea would drop out of making even the effort to genuinely and progressively improve its human rights situation.

In conclusion, we emphasize that the approach to human rights issues should be universal and well balanced. It is only right that international society show genuine concerns about the human rights situation in countries and make efforts to improve it. However, care should be taken that the human rights issue is not used as tool for political ends. To this purpose, the human rights issue of a country should be approached in a comprehensive and balanced manner, preventing the emphasis of one aspect of human rights and, at the same time, all states involved should also show the intention to improve their own human rights situation.

For example, a few conservative groups in South Korea have been criticizing the human rights records in North Korea while at the same time strongly insisting on the detention of Professor Kang Jeong-koo, who was recently subject to persecution without any legal foundation because of his newspaper article about North Korea. Unfortunately, it cannot be denied that the matter of North Korea’s human rights has been made into an issue in South Korea with largely political purposes. We recall that human rights standards narrowly viewed and politicized are just like other politically motivated arguments and can actually result in the deterioration of human rights.

Center for Peace and Disarmament
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