[EDITORIALS]Commission speaks outThe National Human Rights Commission has for the first time broken its silence on North Korea’s human rights. The commission published a report criticizing North Korea’s political prisons and public executions and condemning the government’s tendency to avoid discussing on its human rights record. This is a big change considering the commission had previously remained silent on the issue.
The report is a research paper on North Korea’s human rights that the rights body commissioned from eight law professors and experts on North Korean studies.
One researcher wrote, “North Korea’s political prison is a human rights abuse warehouse where pregnant women and infants are killed.” Another said, “It is inappropriate to avoid discussion under the assumption that efforts to improve North Korea’s human rights would threaten the country’s regime,” and, “South Korea must set forth parallel policies of providing economic aid and persuading the North to improve its human rights conditions.”
The commission has not made public its position on North Korea’s human rights abuses and even failed to decide whether to make a recommendation to the government. Recently it dismissed a petition that asked the commission to speak against shooting executions in front of the North Korean people.
The report is the first resource the commission has voluntarily made public on the issue. In particular, the commission shows a possibility of change related to recent moves of Ahn Kyong-hwan, the new head of the commission. Mr. Ahn said, “After going through appropriate procedures, we will make the commission’s position clear over [the issue] as soon as possible,” in his inauguration speech and at the National Assembly inspection of government agencies. In an interview with a newspaper, Mr. Ahn said, “I can no longer remain silent about North Korea’s abuses. The commission will announce its position before the end of this year.” Human rights issues are not a matter of liberalism or conservatism, but about the general values of all mankind. That is why three Nobel Peace Prize awardees, including Elie Wiesel and Vaclav Havel, asked the United Nations Security Council to take a step forward regarding North Korea’s human rights abuses. With the publishing of the report as a turning point, the commission should no longer try to appease the Blue House but should face up to the abuse. If it remains vague on the issue again, it will completely lose its grounds for existence.