[EDITORIALS]UN resolution needs SeoulThe government has announced that it will abstain from voting on the UN resolution on North Korean human rights, which is to take place during the next UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. A government official said, “We will express our concerns about the human rights situation in North Korea, but we will explain that we have to abstain from voting.”
We understand the government’s need for such a “quiet” diplomatic strategy, considering the special characteristics of inter-Korean relations, in which South Korea is required to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff peacefully and build mutual trust on the Korean Peninsula.
However, if Seoul refrains from voting again this year, following its abstention last year, it may draw criticism from the world and create the misunderstanding that South Korea is reluctant to tackle North Korean human rights issues. The fact that the resolution was prepared by 45 countries altogether show that North Korean human rights have become a global concern.
Separately from its trust- and peace-building North Korean policies, Seoul should express a clear position on the human rights issue. It should also present clear principles and demands for human rights improvement plans for Pyongyang so that the communist regime can understand that ameliorating its human rights situation will serve to benefit itself. If Seoul’s efforts help improve North Korean human rights, then both Seoul and the world will be able to revive their humanitarian aid and support for Pyongyang.
Of course, Seoul’s position at the UN meeting that it will abstain from voting after expressing its concerns is better than what it did last year, when it didn’t vote and didn’t give an explanation. Seoul is expected to tell the UN commission: “The South Korean government has hoped that North Korea would improve its human rights protection standards to meet global standards. To our regret, however, North Korea failed to do so. As a result, South Korea is deeply concerned.”
This comment is better than remaining silent. But it is not honorable behavior. Human rights are God-given and they directly connected to the everyday lives of North Koreans. Human rights issues are separate from Seoul’s strategies for Pyongyang. South Korea would be doing the right thing if it joins international society in approving the resolution so that North Koreans’ lives can be improved.