NPAD’s bill focuses on human rights in NorthLawmakers from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) proposed a bill to improve the human rights conditions in North Korea, with an unprecedented emphasis on political freedom for the citizens of the totalitarian state.
So far, both the ruling and the largest opposition party have each proposed five bills on the issue, but all of them had a different emphasis on how to improve the dire living conditions in the North.
The ruling Saenuri Party called for more support for civic activists working to improve the human rights of North Korean people, including those sending balloons carrying propaganda leaflets to the North, which Pyongyang publicly protested.
Opposition lawmakers, mainly followers of the Kim Dae-jung administration’s Sunshine Policy, traditionally focused on an increase in humanitarian aid for the impoverished state and expressed concerns that criticizing the North’s deplorable human rights record and supporting anti-Pyongyang activists could upset the regime and trigger more tensions on the peninsula.
The new bill, proposed in the name of Shim Jae-kwon, an NPAD lawmaker, divided human rights into two categories: political freedom and economic, social and cultural rights.
It states that improving the human rights for North Koreans is the duty of South Korean government and also proposes holding a regular dialogue with North Korean authorities, dubbed “inter-Korean talks for human rights [of North Koreans].”
The talks are aimed at restoring the freedoms of the North Korean people, the bill says, including those jailed in the state’s notorious political prisons, South Korean POWs and North Korean defectors in the South.
It also urged the Ministry of Unification to launch a “human rights information center” to create an archive documenting human rights violations in North Korea.
Such an information center was already proposed by the Saenuri Party, with the purpose to punish those guilty of crimes against humanity after the two Koreas are unified.
But opposition party lawmakers said the center they proposed was only for recording specific human rights violations. For improving the “economic rights” of North Koreans, the bill called for launching a special committee in the Unification Ministry to arrange humanitarian business.
The shift in the opposition party’s stance on legislation regarding human rights in North Korea came after the Democratic Party merged with the faction led by Ahn Cheol-soo, a former presidential frontrunner and independent lawmaker who emphasized for the issue as an opposition politician.
BY KIM HEE-JIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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