North must protect human rights

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North must protect human rights

On Feb. 17, a severe snowstorm hit Washington D.C., suspending bus services and shutting down government offices. However, a discussion on North Korean human rights was held as scheduled at Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). A day earlier, Chang Il-hun, North Korea’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, had demanded that the event be canceled.

An attendee said that North Korea’s mission to the United Nations demanded to be allowed to attend the event on Feb. 13. But since the members of the UN delegation in New York require a travel permit from the State Department to travel within the United States and Pyongyang knew it would not be granted, it instead argued that the event should be canceled. Korean Chair and senior adviser Victor Cha said it was unclear whether it was attendance or cancellation that North Korea really wanted.

The discussion was jointly organized by CSIS, Yonsei University, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and the George W. Bush Foundation. Attendees, including the State Department’s Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, Robert King, and former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell, called for improved human rights conditions in the North.

North Korean diplomats are working hard to interfere with discussions on human rights worldwide. It seems that there was an order to prevent human rights conditions from being discussed.

On Feb. 10, North Korea complained about the international symposium on North Korean human rights in Jakarta by the National Human Rights Commission. Korean Ambassador for Human Rights Lee Jung-hoon said that North Korean officials appeared at the symposium to complain. According to the local media, North Korean Ambassador to Indonesia Lee Jeong-ryeol sent a letter of protest not just to the Indonesian government but to the ruling party and Interpol, claiming that the event is an insult to North Korea.

On Feb. 19, the North Korean foreign ministry threatened that reckless provocation over human rights would be met by hardline responses. A discussion panel said that Pyongyang must pressure diplomats to prevent the events, and the diplomats have become desperate.

However, they cannot keep North Korean human rights conditions from international attention. North Korea has failed to resolve its human rights issues. North Korea’s priority should be to secure the human rights of its own people before making diplomatic efforts.

The author is the Washington correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 23, Page 29

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