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More tough talk on North Korea from Lee gov’t.

Mar 27,2008
In a sign of the new administration’s revamped policy on North Korea, the Unification Ministry yesterday announced a plan to synchronize its work on inter-Korean relations with the country’s diplomatic efforts on various fronts.
Underscoring the ministry’s changed ― and tougher ― stance on the North, the ministry aims to put more pressure on Pyongyang to improve human rights conditions.
The ministry’s workplan, outlined in a press briefing yesterday and in an earlier progress report given to President Lee Myung-bak, revolves around several key principles: working with other countries to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, helping the North achieve a $3,000 per capita gross domestic product through expanded economic cooperation, repatriation of South Korean prisoners of war and people kidnapped to the North, and transparency on aid sent for North Koreans.
“Our basic stance is that human rights issues should be considered a universal value for all humankind,” Unification Vice Minister Hong Yang-ho said in the briefing yesterday. “We are taking up the issue not to provoke North Korea but to address it as something to be universally valued,” he said when asked whether the ministry is no longer taking into account the unique South-North relationship when addressing diplomatic issues with North Korea.
Hong also said inter-Korean talks should have “tangible results,” and the government would no longer hold “talks for the sake of talks.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry indicated it would vote for a United Nations resolution to extend the tenure of the UN envoy for human rights in North Korea. The resolution would extend the assignment of Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in North Korea, by another year when the issue comes up in the sevensth session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The vote may take place as early as March 27. South Korea had earlier voted against or withdrawn its vote on the council’s resolutions addressing the North’s human rights issues.
The South Korean government, in the council session in Geneva earlier this month, urged the North to “take appropriate measures” to improve human rights conditions, sending the first signal of Seoul’s tougher policy towards the North.
The South’s move is expected to draw more ire from Pyongyang, which already expressed discomfort with Seoul’s heightened rhetoric on human rights violations.
“South Korea must be held responsible for all the consequences arising out of these irresponsible remarks, which will have negative repercussions on inter-Korean relations,” Pyongyang’s representative Choi Myung-nam said in Geneva earlier this month.
The Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations emphasized engagement with the North.


By Jung Ha-won Staff Reporter [hawon@joongang.co.kr]


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