Research into human rights in North falls prey to politics

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Research into human rights in North falls prey to politics

A growing rift between the nation’s political parties has taken its toll on President Park Geun-hye’s core initiative to improve human rights conditions in the North.

The first victim? A state-backed research foundation that was meant to be established by the end of this year.

Operated under the Ministry of Unification, the foundation was meant to be dedicated to research on dire human rights situations in the communist regime, a plan based on the South’s newly enacted North Korean Human Rights Act, which went into force last September after 11 years of partisan wrangling over the content and purpose of the law.

A source from the National Assembly Secretariat who has knowledge of the process blamed the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea on Monday for causing the stalemate.

The liberal party is reportedly being obstinate about having at least one of the two highest-ranking members in the 12-person board of directors appointed by the opposition bloc.

Under current rules, the ruling Saenuri Party, to which President Park belongs, can recommend five people for the board, while the Minjoo Party recommends four and the minor opposition People’s Party one. The final two seats are chosen by the unification minister.

Only two among the 12 members will be working full-time, while the rest will be required to serve part-time. The two are the chairman and the secretary general, the highest-ranking positions in the foundation, said the source. The chairman will be elected by members on a popular vote, after which he or she will gain the authority to appoint the secretary general.

Bipartisan tension is said to have erupted when the Minjoo Party requested that either the chairman or the secretary general be guaranteed to be among the five people chosen by the opposition bloc.

The government opposed, which led the Minjoo Party to boycott the foundation by not submitting any of their four board member choices, according to the official.

Efforts to strengthen domestic research on North Korean human rights comes at a time when the international community has condemned Pyongyang for pursuing nuclear ambitions at the cost of its own people’s lives.

For the 12th straight year, the UN General Assembly adopted a joint resolution calling to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for human rights violations.

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