[FORUM]Supporting rights in the North

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[FORUM]Supporting rights in the North

The Roh Moo-hyun administration sees the issue of North Korean human rights as a political hot potato. South Korea abstained from voting at the UN Human Rights Commission meeting that passed a resolution condemning the North’s human rights record, instead only stressing inter-Korean relations.
But European countries such as France understood the gravity of the human rights situation in North Korea and took the initiative. As a result, the UN Human Rights Commission passed a powerful North Korean human rights resolution without South Korea.
In addition, U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law the North Korea Human Rights Act, which had been passed by Congress. The issue of North Korean human rights has definitely moved into the international domain.
If the Roh administration had approached North Korea’s human rights record with an eye toward the future, it could have played a leading role in handling the issue. We could also have actively encouraged humanitarian aid from the United Nations, the United States and European countries.
If Washington now puts the North Korean human rights policy on the table when dealing with the North, the policy alternatives left to the Roh administration will be drastically reduced. In the end, it will be in a dilemma of not being able to reject international pressure over North Korea’s human rights record or calling on the North for improvement.
Now, the Roh administration and 386 generation pro-democracy fighters of the 1980s must have the courage to address the North Korean human rights issue. The infringement upon human rights that is happening all over North Korea will not be solved only with food aid. Those who had been loyal to Kim Il Sung are indebted, socially and politically, to people in the South as well as to North Korean residents.
If we do not help our brothers who are dying right under our noses, we will not be eligible to talk about our history and people in the future. We cannot afford to make the mistake of standing on the side of dictators or oppressors of human rights anymore.
We also have to be honest. If we have made mistakes, we have to ask for forgiveness. If people admit that they were once in the Kim Il Sung group and now ask for forgiveness, I believe the people will forgive them.
We South Koreans should be strong supporters in guarding the life, freedom and survival of our brethren in the North.

* The writer, a former chaiman of the central executive committee of the Federation of All-Korean University Students, is a researcher at the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights.

by Huh Hyun-joon
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