[EDITORIALS]A cowardly decisionThe National Human Rights Commission said on Monday that North Korea’s human rights abuses are not the proper object of the commission’s investigations. That cowardly and discouraging decision required the expenditure of four years and 450 million won, or $490,000.
The national body said that inter-Korean relations are very “special.” Because South Korea views North Korea as a foreign country, North Koreans are not native citizens and thus they are not proper targets for an investigation. Under Korea’s Constitution, the entire Korean Peninsula is the territory of the Republic of Korea and North Korean residents are naturally the citizens of the Republic of Korea. The National Human Rights Commission, a government body, should not deny something that is stipulated in the Constitution. If we believe the commission’s mission statement, we are compelled to see human rights as a universal value, not an issue to be dealt with by each individual country in whatever way it sees fit. On the same basis the United Nations also adopted a resolution condemning North Korea’s abuse of human rights.
The commission says it is impossible to investigate human rights violations because it is hard to claim jurisdiction in the North, but that is just a cowardly excuse. In the past, the commission submitted a resolution that opposed sending our troops to Iraq, citing the human rights of Iraqis. But we have no jurisdiction in Iraq. The agency’s decisions are inconsistent. It is not that we need to go to North Korea to investigate the human rights situation. If we interview North Koreans who have escaped using appropriate methods, we can conduct an objective investigation. We can then present reports on the international stage to put pressure on North Korea.
Amnesty International has reported lately that North Korea categorizes North Korean defectors who are forcibly sent back as traitors to be confined and then killed in public. In prisons for political criminals, some starve to death. But the South Korean human rights agency demands the government separate the provision of aid to the North from political issues so it can continue giving humanitarian aid to Pyongyang. It is hard to understand why the agency believes that our aid to the North will save North Korean residents from starving when human rights are severely violated in that communist country.
The South Korean human rights agency should reverse its decision immediately and begin working to improve human rights in North Korea; its people are Koreans too.