Government failing Yu

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Government failing Yu

Three months have passed since a South Korean worker was detained at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea.

Amnesty International called on its members around the world to work for the release of the worker, named Yu, and two American journalists who were detained near the North’s border with China in a separate case.

In a statement, Amnesty International said detaining Yu for more than 80 days without giving him contact to the outside world amounted to an extreme measure.

The organization also emphasized that North Korean authorities must release the worker and the two women journalists immediately, with no strings attached, if the detainees are not indicted for crimes during fair trials in accordance with international standards.

Finally, Yu’s case is emerging as an international issue.

We have been pointing out the unfairness of the matter since Yu was first detained, and we called on our government to work actively to resolve the issue.

But the government seems to be handling the situation in a passive manner, exerting most of its efforts on pending inter-Korean issues such as North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear test, the controversy over our participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative, and negotiations over working conditions at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

South Korean officials did bring up Yu’s situation as part of negotiations over the Kaesong complex, and they demanded that the engineer be released.

But North Korea ignored the demand, and our government did nothing else on the issue. If this persists, it will be difficult for the government to avoid criticism that it is failing to fulfill its duty to protect people’s lives and safety.

We believe that the government must work on the issue more actively. That does not mean it must shut down the Kaesong complex immediately or overreact and, say, prepare for a physical clash.

But at the very least it must denounce North Korean authorities’ unjust behavior wherever and whenever it has a chance, for instance at the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations.

The private sector must make efforts, too, possibly by urging North Korea to release Yu. Countless domestic organizations related to North Korea issues, including those that provide aid to the country, must protest together against the unfair treatment of Yu. They must work together to rescue a citizen of the Republic of Korea.

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