Blind eye to human rightsThe government has abstained from a vote on a United Nations resolution on North Korean human rights. Last year, the government supported a similar resolution in the aftermath of the North’s nuclear and missile test, but this time, the government made its decision citing “special circumstances regarding inter-Korean relations.” This measure is something the government should not be proud of. It shows a lack of understanding on human rights. It has been a long time since human rights have become a common concern in the international community. This is a value that cannot depend on the situation. In short, it’s not an issue on which Seoul can cast a yes vote when the North increases tension, or abstain from when that is not the case. The only standard guideline to be used on this issue is how much the human rights of North Koreans are respected. Under the government’s logic, does it mean that the government will change its position when Pyongyang raises tensions here? How does it look for a country to swing back and forth on human rights issues in the eyes of the international community? This is nothing but mockery.
The reason why the government changed its position from last year is clear. The decision was based on the judgment that in order to maintain the current cozy atmosphere established after the inter-Korean summit meeting, North Korea should not be unnecessarily agitated. Nevertheless, to argue that a dent will be put in inter-Korean relations because we have urged the North to improve its human rights situation is a very simple- minded and careless notion. The United States has asked China to stop sending North Korean defectors back to the North, taking a strong stance on the North Korean human rights issue. By the logic of the South Korean government, the North Korea-United States relationship should be damaged beyond repair, but the reality is exactly the opposite. This administration has blinded the people by packaging its soft stance toward the North as an inter-Korean relationship issue.
We support the engagement policy toward the North. Especially we think that humanitarian aid to the North needs to be increased. Nevertheless, such policies need to be pursued while saying things to the North that need to be said. For a government that has preached human rights since its inception, to turn a blind eye on North Korean human rights throughout its rule will go down in history as an incident that severely damaged South Korea’s standing in the international community.