North human rights bill moves in Assembly

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North human rights bill moves in Assembly

The Foreign Affairs, Unification and Trade Committee of the National Assembly yesterday passed a long-stalled bill aimed at improving human rights conditions in North Korea.

The bill was then passed on to the Judiciary Committee.

The Foreign Affairs Committee voted on the bill during a meeting without opposition Democratic Party lawmakers, who walked out in protest but did not physically block the voting.

All participating 14 members of the ruling Grand National Party and two Liberty Forward Party legislators voted in favor of the bill.

The Democrats said they, too, want to improve human rights in North Korea, but said the bill will be ineffective as a law because it fails to address inter-Korean relations. They also said the bill could put pressure on Pyongyang, where conditions are already sensitive. They said they feared the bill could cause unnecessary tensions between two Koreas.

The bill calls to establish a government body dedicated to improving North Korean human rights and providing assistance for civic groups trying to advance the situation.

“The bill will not help the North Korean people, but rather it provides a reason to suppress and control them,” said DP representative Song Min-soon, who served as the foreign minister for the Roh Moo-hyun administration from 2006 to 2008.

Meanwhile, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said during the meeting that people in the North are suffering from severe food shortages and nations outside the communist country should provide food.

During the term of 17th National Assembly (2004-2008) a similar bill was raised but it was scrapped under opposition from the then-ruling Uri Party. The party was concerned that the bill could enrage the reclusive country.

Even after the launch of the 18th National Assembly in 2008, Grand Nationals and Democrats clashed over the bill, which saw no progress.

By Lee Min-yong []

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