Saenuri appeals for North rights bill to be passed

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Saenuri appeals for North rights bill to be passed

Welcoming the passage of a UN committee’s resolution calling for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for human rights violations, the ruling party Wednesday called on the opposition to work together in passing the North Korean Human Rights Act, which has been stuck in the parliament for nine years.

Saenuri lawmakers voiced joint support for the resolution in New York, and said a failure by South Korea to pass the long-pending legislation would be “tantamount to becoming a historical accomplice” [to the North’s crimes].

“The National Assembly must achieve the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act,” said Saenuri Rep. Rhee In-je during a party leadership meeting at the National Assembly Wednesday. “Some critics argue it is not right for us to seek improvement in North Koran human rights conditions because that is Pyongyang’s domestic affairs. But North Korea is not a foreign country to us.”

The veteran lawmaker cited the Constitution, which defines North Koreans as South Korean citizens, in his support for the bill.

Noting that the UN resolution has laid down a basis for bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the ICC, Saenuri spokesman Park Dae-chul said the National Assembly should not turn away from calls from the international community to step in on behalf of North Koreans suffering from such a dire denial of human rights.

The Saenuri Party and the opposition are at total odds over the bill.

Since former lawmaker Kim Moon-soo, who also served as Gyeonggi governor, first submitted the human rights bill to the Assembly in 2005, the two main parties have made almost no progress in narrowing their differences on it.

While the rival parties agree on a need to improve human rights conditions through the passage of the long-pending bill, they differ greatly on the contents of the bill. For instance, the Saenuri wants a clause in the bill that grants government financial support for civic groups in the South working to improve human rights conditions in the North.

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), on the other hand, thinks that such a clause will mainly aid anti-Pyongyang civic groups such as the Fighters for Free North Korea, which has led a propaganda leaflet campaign against the Communist regime. The NPAD contends that such a clause will only raise inter-Korean tension and push North Korea into further isolation.

The opposition wants the law to concentrate on improving the human rights and living standards of North Koreans via humanitarian aid and in a way that will not offend Pyongyang.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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