[EDITORIALS]Shameful stance on rights

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[EDITORIALS]Shameful stance on rights

The European Parliament is planning to hold its first hearings on the North Korean refugee crisis on Feb. 23 in Belgium.
Alongside the official hearings, Freedom House will hold its third conference on North Korean human rights, also in Belgium.
Moreover, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a House hearing last week that the United States is reconsidering its refugee policy and that Special Envoy for North Korean Rights Jay Lefkowitz “will take on a more active role” in the future.
The recent series of events proves that the United States and the international community are strengthening their efforts to improve the human rights situation in North Korea.
But in a recent meeting with Korean ambassadors, National Security Council head and Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said that the government’s position is to refrain from publicly discussing the issue in the interest of North-South relations.
Mr. Lee also made it clear that although future administrations may take a different approach, the Roh Moo-hyun government will maintain this stance.
We worry that these comments might not only hamper ties with the United States but also isolate South Korea from the international community.
For a government that makes improving relations with the North its main priority, North Korea’s human rights issue must be a thorny one.
But the administration must also consider that its current logic of neglecting the subject due to worries of harming relations with the North will not sway its international neighbors, since violation of human rights is not an internal issue but an infringement on universal values.
This is why international society has given the cold shoulder to any explanations that the current government has provided during the past couple of years on this issue.
Until when will South Korea ignore the international atmosphere? With the country presenting a candidate for the next United Nations secretary general, the time has come to change its position.
The U.S. Embassy in Korea recommended to the National Human Rights Commission last year that the issue be at least unofficially raised with North Korea.
It is regretful to see the administration’s head of foreign affairs and security even showing signs of self-righteousness by making comments, neglecting the matter with all the Korean ambassadors in attendance.
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