[Letter to the editor]Address human rights in nuclear talks

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[Letter to the editor]Address human rights in nuclear talks

For the first time in several years, North Korea has offered and carried out its promise to shut down its nuclear facilities, which has been confirmed by IAEA inspectors.
Bilateral talks are occurring and the six-party talks have resumed. But will the world powers, once again, allow North Korea to control the talks?
North Korea is demanding aid from other nations in return for slowly closing down its nuclear program. It is an appropriate time for the international world to demand more. The negotiators need to make human rights an issue in the talks.
Clearly, the situation for North Koreans is getting worse, as a greater number of North Korean refugees are seeking asylum in South Korea. It is imperative that the negotiators demand improvement in the human rights situation in North Korea.
The many human rights violations going on in North Korea are inhumane to an incomprehensible degree. An estimated 150,000 “political prisoners” slave away in prison camps, where North Koreans are forced to do hard labor, such as brick making or mining, with scanty rations of food.
Pregnant women repatriated from China are forced to abort their babies by injection if the fetus is under 8 months old. If the woman has been pregnant for more than eight months, she is given an injection to induce labor, and then the baby is killed by asphyxiation or by being placed in a box to die.
North Korea denies the existence of such horrific human rights violations, but through satellite images and accounts from former prisoners, the international community can clearly see the gulags. Even outside the prison camps, North Koreans suffer deprivation of even the most basic human rights.
For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of which North Korea has been a party to since December 1981, guarantees the right to food.
It is apparent that North Korea fails to uphold the rights guaranteed in these documents, just by looking at the height of the North Korean refugees. Having suffered from malnutrition and lack of food, North Korean boys and girls are generally short for their age.
Although the political system in North Korea is the fundamental cause for the deprivation of basic human rights in North Korea, it is imperative that such issues are included in the six-party talks. We cannot sacrifice the lives of many North Koreans by ignoring the human rights violations occurring in North Korea, and only concentrating on the shutdown of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The many human rights violations in North Korea must be addressed as soon as possible, and there can be no better time than now, when progress is being made in the [nuclear] negotiations.
Ashley Kang, Seoul
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