[EDITORIALS]Prioritizing human rightsThe North Korea Human Rights Act unanimously passed the U.S. Senate. After the bill passed the House, the Senate eased certain provisions, such as linking the North Korean human rights issue with aid to the North. But key provisions, such as providing nearly 26 billion won ($22 million) worth of support to improve human rights conditions in the North and to aid North Korean defectors in China, passed.
This signifies that the legal procedure for the United States to intervene in North Korea’s human rights issues has become finalized. The unanimous passage also showed that the United States’ negative perception of North Korea transcends party politics.
This bill also has a provision that allows North Korean defectors in a third country to seek political asylum in the United States. Thus this could have a serious impact on the politics of the Korean peninsula as well as the future of U.S.-North Korea and U.S.-South Korea relations. The time has come for a thoughtful response from both Koreas.
North Korea must seriously consider the implications of the growing “abhorrence toward North Korea” that appears to be developing in the United States. As is well known, North Korea’s human rights conditions are worsening. And Pyeongyang continues to threaten the world with nuclear weapons and missiles, so it is no wonder that distrust of the North is deepening in the United States.
At this point, it is deplorable that North Korea’s vice foreign minister said during the U.N. General Assembly that North Korea has reprocessed 8,000 used fuel rods and weaponized them. North Korea must realize that the United States is not a nation that will submit to such threats. It must remember that in order to maintain its regime and revitalize its economy, it must solve the nuclear issue.
Our government must also reassess its position on the matter. We cannot just close our eyes to human rights conditions because we fear we are “inciting” the North. While maintaining dialogue and negotiations with the North, we must speak our minds about the universal value of human rights. Otherwise we will be prone to criticism from the international community.
We must remember that the passage of this bill also means that the United States will not be conscious of the South Korean government’s position towards the North when dealing with human rights.