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South Korea calls for passage of North Korea human rights bill

The bill, which has been delayed since 2005, includes provisions for the financial support of the organizations that have denounced the Kim Jong Un regime.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Jan. 25, 2016 at 9:49 AM
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SEOUL, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- South Korea's Unification Ministry said it is unsuitable to link the North Korea human rights issue to inter-Korea relations, ahead of a plan to pass a bill Friday.

A ministry official who met with reporters Monday said those who oppose the North Korean Human Rights Act despite recognizing the "universal value" of human rights were acting "inappropriately," South Korean outlet Newsis reported.

"The notion that improvements in North Korea human rights must develop in parallel with peace on the Korean peninsula is not compatible with the government's position," the official said.

South Korean newspaper Herald Business reported the official said promoting inter-Korea peace is not enough, and should not eclipse the need to improve the human rights situation in North Korea.

Parallel pursuit of both initiatives, the Seoul official said, would mean any interruption to North-South peace efforts would have to mean the discontinuation of the human rights approach.

Such developments would be "undesirable," the official said.

In December, the proposed North Korean Human Rights Act came under fire from opposition lawmakers and activist groups, who were concerned the law could aggravate fragile relations with Pyongyang.

The bill, which has been delayed since 2005, includes provisions for the financial support of the organizations that have denounced the Kim Jong Un regime and angered Pyongyang with its distribution of anti-Kim leaflets across the heavily fortified border along the DMZ.

South Korean civic groups that oppose the bill said taxpayers' support for defector organizations could interfere with North-South détente.

The government in Seoul and the ruling Saenuri Party, however, is looking to pass the law in order to establish a South Korean Human Rights Foundation Archive and an advisory committee.

"We need to create a decree to allow for these developments," the official said.

Pyongyang has denied allegations of human rights abuses and has said defectors' testimonies are groundless lies.

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