Center marks 100 days of helping out defectors

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Center marks 100 days of helping out defectors


Kim Gwang-il, 43, center, and nine other North Korean defectors turn in a petition over human rights abuses in North Korea to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in Seoul yesterday. [YONHAP]

North Korean human rights have been an issue of public and political interest and with the number of defectors growing in the country, their testimonies have also increased regarding the severe restrictions on human rights in the North.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea in March opened a counseling center focusing on North Korean human rights. Today will be the center’s 100th day of operation.

In addition to helping defectors, the center also deals with family members of those abducted by the North and those who have loved ones across the border. The center is the first government-run group of its kind.

The center so far has received 23 petitions from 718 people over human rights infringement cases in North Korea. The latest one was filed yesterday by a group of 10 North Korean defectors, detailing cases of abuse they had suffered during their time in a labor camp before escaping to South Korea.

Some of the information given on human rights abuses in North Korea has been about mistreatment of those in reformation centers in the North, where citizens are subject to ideology education and frequent physical abuse.

North Korean citizens are sent to these camps if they commit a minor crime and are subject to incarceration for up to three years.

The commission’s center has also received about 100 counseling requests at its office in Jung District, Seoul, over the past 100 days.

The center on Monday has also started going out to those in need. The action was taken after the human rights commission realized the number of calls they had been receiving had declined.

Hyun Byung-chul, head of the commission, sent letters to about 15,000 defectors’ addresses in the country regarding the problem of human rights infringements in North Korea, to bring the matter back into the spotlight.

Some of those who requested home visits were defectors who were physically unable to make the trip to the center, due to the physical assaults they had received in North Korea.

Cases received by the center are hoped to help push along the passing of the North Korean Human Rights Act, which is pending in the National Assembly.

North Korea threatened to lash out “mercilessly” if the bill is passed in South Korea on Monday.

By Christine Kim []

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
북한인권침해신고센터 출범 100일…진정 23건

'전거리교화소서 인권침해 당했다'
국가인권위원회가 국가기관으로는 처음 북한인권침해신고센터를 개소한 이후 지금까지 북한 인권 관련 진정이 20건 넘게 접수된 것으로 집계됐다.

21일 인권위에 따르면 북한정치범수용소 피해자와 KAL기 납치 등 납북 피해자, 교화소 등 구금시설 고문 피해자, 이산가족 등 718명이 지난 3월 센터 개소 후 100일 동안 23건의 북한 인권침해 진정을 접수한 것으로 나타났다.

북한 인권과 관련한 상담 요청도 100여건에 달했고, 이 중에는 정치범수용소에 가려져 국내에 잘 알려지지 않았던 북한의 교화소(교도소) 내 인권침해 사례도 포함됐다.

인권위는 진정을 한 신고인과 참고인 등을 통해 객관적인 사례를 수집 중이며, 앞으로 국제사회와 공조 방안을 마련하고 정책자료로 활용할 예정이다.

한편, 북한이탈주민 등 10여명은 이날 오전 서울 중구 인권위 인권상담센터를 방문해 "북한 전거리교화소에서 인권침해를 당했다"며 인권위에 진정을 냈다.

이들은 "교화소는 북한에서 큰 감옥과 같은 곳이다. 이곳에서 인권 유린이 자행되고 있다"며 "북한 교화소의 실태를 외부에 알리고자 진정서를 제출하게 됐다"고 말했다.

북한 교화소는 경미한 범죄를 저지른 이들이 보통 3년 이하의 징역형을 받고 머무는 곳으로, 적은 식사량에 잦은 가혹 행위 등을 당하고 있는 것으로 알려져 있다.
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