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South Korean politicians divided over North Korea human rights

By
Elizabeth Shim
North Korean human rights were at the center of a debate in Seoul on Wednesday. Progressive politicians in the South said engagement with Kim Jong Un (C) would improve conditions for ordinary North Koreans. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
North Korean human rights were at the center of a debate in Seoul on Wednesday. Progressive politicians in the South said engagement with Kim Jong Un (C) would improve conditions for ordinary North Koreans. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 7 (UPI) -- South Korean politicians disagree on a solution to North Korea human rights abuses that range from summary execution to rape, torture and forced labor, and members of the progressive ruling party say engagement will improve conditions in the country.

At a parliamentary audit of the National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday, ruling Democratic Party of Korea lawmaker Kim Byung-wook said bringing Pyongyang out of isolation is the answer to the pressing problem, Yonhap reported.

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"Helping North Korea to leave behind its closed country status is a way to solve the human rights issue," Kim said. "Following the third inter-Korean summit, keeping various agreements and actively promoting inter-Korea exchange are a shortcut to solving the human rights problem."

Seo Young-kyo, Kim's fellow politician in the Democratic Party, said South Korea's North Korean human rights law should protect the most vulnerable, including North Korean children, and not be used in "political attacks," presumably against the regime and even her own party.

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Chang Seok-chun of the main opposition conservatives disagreed and criticized the ruling party and the administration of President Moon Jae-in as acting too cautiously.

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"You are watching and worried about what North Korea will think," Chang said.

News 1 reported Chang said Moon is not doing enough on North Korea human rights.

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"We should be speaking out about North Korea human rights regardless of the North Korea policies of the Moon Jae-in administration, but no such actions have been taken," Chang said, adding he has never witnessed the South Korean human rights commission take a stand on the issue.

Choi Young-ae, chief of the human rights commission, said North Korea human rights problems were discussed most recently at an international conference in Australia.

"We are constantly taking an interest in the issue," Choi said.

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Conservative politician Lee Chul-gyu also said the matter of the group of North Korean waitresses brought to Seoul in 2016 should be settled. Claims the women were "kidnapped" should be investigated, Lee said.

"If the allegations were used for political purposes, then those in question should be held responsible," Lee said.

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