South Korea pushes rights reform for North Korea

April 29, 2013 at 12:12 PM
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SEOUL, April 29 (UPI) -- South Korean lawmakers are urged to embrace the spirit of solidarity by passing a human rights measure regarding North Korea, a party leader said Monday.

The conservative ruling Saenuri Party is pressing for the passage of legislation that aims to improve the human rights condition in North Korea. Party leader Hwang Woo-yea said it was time to move the measure forward.

"We should strive to pass the North Korean human rights law," he was quoted by South Korean news agency Yonhap as saying.

The bill was introduced during events meant to coincide with the so-called Week of North Korea Freedom.

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure by a voice vote describing Pyongyang is among the most brutal regimes in the world. The measure said that "thousands" of North Koreans are subjected to forced labor, torture and death in work camps.

Human Rights Watch said as many as 200,000 people are in the North Korean gulag system. The rights organization said North Korea has hidden a system of systematic abuses behind "bluster and defiance."

North Korean rhetoric has sparked concern among U.S. defense officials about security on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea in February conducted an underground nuclear test that it said was part of an anti-American program. Both sides have put missile systems on alert, though there are no imminent signs of war.

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