[EDITORIALS]Human rights vote is essentialOne of the major diplomatic issues in the post-Cold War era is human rights. When the United States attacked Iraq, it said it was aiming to free the country from Saddam’s dictatorship. When NATO intervened in the Kosovo crisis, severe rights infringements by the Serbs were cited as the reason.
Countries are engaged in a hot debate at the UN Human Rights Commission conferences. Advanced nations are raising rights issues, citing a universal standard. Some disagree, however, saying that such moves are interference in other countries’ domestic affairs and that a double standard could be applied. But rejecting the international community’s reasonable arguments and criticisms on human rights abuses by using these excuses is sophistry.
Currently, the 60th convention of the UN Human Rights Commission is taking place in Geneva. Next week, the members will vote on a resolution on North Korea’s human rights. Last year, South Korea did not vote on a similar bill, and the majority of officials are suggesting that the country abstain again. They explain that, taking Pyeongyang’s position into account, Seoul, which promotes an engagement policy, has no option but to abstain from the vote. But, as human rights in general, not only that of North Koreans, have become a vital issue in diplomacy since the Cold War ended, declining to vote on the North Korea resolution will give the impression that South Korea is not interested in rights issues or is cowardly.
South Korea is a responsible member of the international community where democracy, freedom and human rights are protected. Under such principles, its engagement policy toward the North has been implemented. Believing that Seoul’s support for a resolution urging an improvement of human rights in North Korea would hinder the peaceful resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issue and the engagement policy with the North is an irresponsible and dangerous idea.
The reason we stepped forward to help the North was because we wanted to see a human rights improvement there. Although there may be strategic difficulties in inter-Korean dialogue, South Korea must cast its vote at the UN conference for the sake of North Koreans and South Korea’s interests in the long run.