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U.N. official slams South Korea for exposing worm-ridden defector

By Elizabeth Shim
U.N. official slams South Korea for exposing worm-ridden defector
Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur on North Korea human rights issues, delivers a keynote speech during a seminar on North Korean human rights at the U.N. Human Rights Office in Seoul on Monday. Photo by Yonhap

Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A United Nations human rights official slammed South Korea for disclosing the condition of a North Korean soldier, including the "enormous number" of parasites in his body, despite the insight the diagnosis provided regarding North Korea and the violation of soldiers' rights in the Kim Jong Un regime.

U.N. Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana told reporters in Seoul on Monday the disclosure and the way the South Korean authorities handled the defection is regrettable, Yonhap reported.

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Giving media access to the medical diagnosis and the surgery is an infringement of privacy, Quintana said after meeting with South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun.

Quintana said he communicated his disapproval of the government-sanctioned disclosure to Cho during their meeting.

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According to Yonhap, the U.N. official said providing the details of Oh Chong Song's surgery and his health to the point of gruesomeness was a violation of the soldier's right to privacy.

The violation is not "tolerable" from the standpoint of human rights, he added.

Quintana also said there has been recent "interaction" between North Korea and the U.N., regarding a "human rights mechanism," and the communications allow for new opportunities to bring about change.

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The U.N. official then suggested the current level of sanctions against North Korea are having a negative impact, or affecting ordinary North Koreans, adding these concerns have been communicated to the U.N. Security Council.

Quintana's relatively conciliatory approach to North Korea may have prevailed in his meeting with South Korean officials.

News 1 reported Quintana told Seoul a "balanced approach" to security issues is needed.

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He encouraged South Korea to continue to provide humanitarian aid to North Korea.

Pyongyang has been receiving aid but has rejected inter-governmental talks with Seoul.

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