[EDITORIALS]Human rights for allThe government decided to vote for a United Nations resolution on human rights in North Korea. Although belated, this is a very good decision. The government explained that its vote was based on several factors. After North Korea conducted a nuclear test, international society issued a severe condemnation of Pyongyang’s human rights record. Now that former Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon has become the secretary general of the United Nations, South Korea’s status in international society has been elevated. And human rights issues have become increasingly important as universal values.
To make such a decision based on these factors is like admitting that the government was wrong to abstain on the four UN resolutions regarding North Korea’s human rights record that were submitted over the past three years. After making this decision, the government will have to repeal its official stance on North Korea’s human rights record. It will be hard to avoid this and, following the North’s nuclear test, citing peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula can no longer be used as a reason.
North Korean residents are the same race as South Koreans. Even if they were not, it is still a serious problem that they have few basic human rights to freedom of religion, movement, employment, speech or assembly.
In North Korea’s prisons, political detainees have no right to survival and human rights violations occur with monotonous and brutal regularity. With the exception of a privileged few, most of the North’s residents are suffering from starvation. These problems have been deeply entrenched in the anachronistic North Korean regime from its outset. To improve human rights in North Korea, reform of the regime in Pyongyang is a moral and political necessity.
We urge the government to become more active in its pursuit of an improvement in the human rights of the North Korean people. The government should not compromise over this issue even if the North Korean authorities resist. The government cannot stop at condemnations of the North for its human rights violations. Action is required.
The South Korean government, as a party with a direct interest, should present and implement concrete step-by-step measures to improve the human rights situation in North Korea.
The government has publicly acknowledged the importance of human rights as universal values in international society and it must not retreat on this issue. Whether working on a resolution of the North’s nuclear issue or a reduction in inter-Korean tension, the ultimate goal is clear until we achieve reunification: All Korean nationals should be guaranteed the same basic human rights.