Pyongyang denies UN vote claim in memoir

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Pyongyang denies UN vote claim in memoir

North Korea on Monday denied it was asked by the South Korean government about a 2007 UN vote on its dire human rights situation or informed of Seoul’s intention to abstain from the vote.

Through a spokesman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, Pyongyang refuted a claim by former Foreign Affairs Minister Song Min-soon that the Roh Moo-hyun government had asked advice from the North about the 2007 vote, which was aimed at raising awareness of human rights violations in the reclusive state.

“Simply put, the South didn’t ask us about our opinion on the human rights resolution vote or inform us of their decision,” an unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The North’s rebuttal contradicts claims by Song in his recently published memoir, “A Glacier Moves Inevitably,” and recent comments by top officials in the Roh administration before the vote on Nov. 21, 2007 in New York. They said communication was made with the North, but just to inform it about Seoul’s decision to abstain. South Korea’s former top diplomat claimed spy agency chief Kim Man-bok first floated the idea of asking the North about the vote and presidential chief of staff Moon Jae-in gave an order to convey a message to Pyongyang via an inter-Korea channel. Song said in the book that Pyongyang replied, warning of a “serious crisis” in inter-Korea relations if Seoul voted in favor of the resolution.

North Korea called the ongoing controversy over Song’s memoir “a political terror plot to paint the opposition Minjoo Party as a pro-North group,” and went on to describe it as a conspiracy designed by the Park Geun-hye administration to divert attention from “the biggest bribery scandal,” an allusion to a snowballing influence-peddling and corruption scandal involving the president’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

The North’s response Monday was its first reaction to Song’s book.

Rebutting Song’s account, former Blue House officials contended that a decision to abstain from the voting was already made on Nov. 16 by President Roh and that they merely notified the North of the decision to abstain.

Moon Jae-in, who in the memoir is depicted as the official ultimately responsible for asking the North for its advice, continued to deny Song’s account. Moon said in a Facebook post Sunday that Song made a grave error claiming that he gave a green light to asking the North about the vote during a meeting on Nov. 18 at the Blue House, because it was presided over by the presidential national security advisor. Moon maintained that the ruling Saenuri Party was using the controversy to paint him as “pro-North” ahead of next year’s presidential election. Moon ranks second in polls for next year’s election after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Song, who is currently president of the University of North Korea Studies, countered Moon on Monday, saying Moon was indeed in charge of meetings in regard to North Korea among Blue House officials.

“Moon practically presided over meetings related to national security starting in August of that year (2007), when he was appointed to lead a preparation committee for the (second) inter-Korea summit,” said Song in a statement. “What we need to do now is to study the reasons behind the different positions [taken by him and other officials in 2007] and lay out our plan for current and future policy [on North Korea],” said Song.

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

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