Keep this act pure

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Keep this act pure

The North Korean Human Rights Act proposed by the ruling Grand National Party has hit a critical deadlock. After passing the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee at the National Assembly in February, the bill is waiting for discussion in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for examining its legal aspects and wording. The latter committee then submits the act to the full National Assembly.

However, opposition Democratic Party lawmakers are dragging their feet on reviewing the legal aspects at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, fearing that the bill would arouse outrage from the North. Moreover, both parties recently agreed to discuss whether to enact a broader bill that includes a provision on economic aid to the North.

We are deeply worried at the way our lawmakers are attempting to insert clauses on economic assistance into the original bill. The act is based on a consensus that human rights are protected by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States and Japan passed their own versions of a North Korean human rights act with unanimous agreement between ruling and opposition camps.

Our North Korean human rights act stipulates what the government should do: Establish a foundation and a national archive to collect, register and preserve all evidence of the North Korean regime’s human rights abuses. The bill also includes a clause that permits civic groups to provide aid to the North.

But what the DP is trying to add to the bill - such as food and fertilizer aid - does not belong in the realm of law. Instead, those are matters of policy. The government should have the ability to execute such policies in a flexible manner. As aid to the North belongs in the realm of policy, the government decided to suspend its assistance.

If economic aid is specified in the bill, we will have no way to impose sanctions against the North when it attacks us, as it did with the Cheonan sinking and the Yeonpyeong attack. Unless we are able to impose sanctions on the North, how can we expect to change it? If the provision is inserted into the original bill, it will be good for nothing.

Our lawmakers should approach the issue as rationally as possible. If the DP really wants legislation on economic aid, it should draft a separate bill and put it to a vote. If the National Assembly surrenders to a makeshift measure, we can hardly expect a successful result.

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