Park calls for action on North’s rights situation

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Park calls for action on North’s rights situation

President Park Geun-hye yesterday reiterated the importance of tackling North Korea’s dismal human rights record. “The North Korean nuclear program and its human rights situation are at the core of our agenda in North Korean policies to build a peaceful and happy Korean Peninsula,” she said during her biweekly cabinet meeting at the Blue House. “We are not supposed to be passive about these problems for fear of resistance from North Korea.” Improving and overhauling the lives of the North Korean people is “not only a crucial goal of unification,” she said, it constitutes a foothold for “peaceful unification.”

“The reason the North has been repeatedly criticizing me, going so far as to mention my name, is probably because its human rights situation is that painful and heartbreaking on their side,” she continued.

While other countries have ratified the North Korean Human Rights Act, the bill has been stuck in South Korea’s parliament for the past decade, the president added. In the U.S., for instance, the North Korean Human Rights Act went into effect in 2004, meaning that it provides support for human rights groups and refugees fleeing the secretive communist state. U.S. President Barack Obama signed legislation in 2012 to renew the act through the 2017 fiscal year.

President Park’s mention of North Korea’s dire human rights situation comes a week after she urged the regime to improve its rights record and end its nuclear weapons programs during an address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In the same week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also slammed Pyongyang’s human rights abuses and appealed for the country to shut down its political prison camps, which he described as an “evil system.”


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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