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Activist: Seoul has 'nothing' to fight North Korea rights abuses

An international coalition has begun to raise awareness about the need for a North Korea human rights bill in South Korea.

By Elizabeth Shim
Activist: Seoul has 'nothing' to fight North Korea rights abuses
A North Korean woman washes clothing on the banks of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. North Korea has denounced international allegations of human rights abuses, but a U.S. rights group said in Seoul on Wednesday more legislation is needed in South Korea to address violations. File Photo by Stephen Shaver | License Photo

SEOUL, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- A New York-based human rights group said Wednesday the South Korean government is taking a passive attitude toward North Korean human rights abuses, and that Seoul has "nothing" to combat Pyongyang's violations.

The Human Rights Foundation said an international coalition has begun to raise awareness about the need for a North Korea human rights bill in South Korea. The bill has been delayed since 2005, Yonhap reported.

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"Consider that there is already a North Korean human rights act in Japan, in the United States. Canada has a North Korean human rights day. The United Nations has an entire commission devoted to North Korean human rights, and South Korea has nothing," said Thor Halvorssen, HRF president.

South Korean lawmakers have been hesitant to implement the bill. Ruling and opposition party members in the National Assembly have said they are willing to work together, but opposition lawmakers have said they would work on the legislation on the condition that it should substantially help improve human rights in North Korea, while not aggravating North-South relations.

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North Korea has denounced international allegations of human rights abuses and has said the campaigns are a "political maneuver aimed at overthrowing our regime."

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South Korean outlet Newsis reported Halvorssen said the interests of the Korean government and people in supporting the predicament of North Koreans is in a desperate state. The passage of a South Korea bill addressing North Korean human rights, however, could lead to the desired changes, and pave the way for a peaceful reunification, according to Halvorssen, because it would allow for support of defector organizations and the education of South Koreans on issues in the North.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, a member of the international coalition, said if the bill is passed, South Korea could find ways to improve access to information for ordinary North Koreans.

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Access to information is a basic human right, Wales said.

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