South Korea has been quietly collecting data on North Korea human rights since 2016 and is to make the information publicly available, according to local press reports. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 17 (UPI) -- South Korea is to declassify its findings on North Korea human rights for the first time since 2016.
Seoul's unification ministry said Thursday the Center for North Korean Human Rights Records is to publish collected data in 2020, Newsis and Yonhap reported.
A ministry official told local reporters the government-funded research currently available only to authorized individuals could be made public. Seoul may be making changes following criticism, according to reports.
Seoul's North Korean Human Rights Act became law in September 2016. It allows the government to keep an official record of rights abuses in the North. Under the law, the record can be used as grounds for potential punishment of North Korean authority figures.
The records include results of investigations into human rights abuses in North Korea that rely on North Korean defector testimonies. On Thursday, the Seoul official who spoke to journalists said a review is ongoing on whether to include classified documents from 2018 and 2019. The government is also unsure whether records should be made publicly available annually, or on a more regular basis.
South Korea has downplayed concerns over North Korea human rights amid efforts at inter-Korea diplomacy. That policy could be gradually shifting, however. Earlier this month, a South Korean ministry official said Seoul is committed to taking part in resolutions on North Korea at the United Nations General Assembly.
Unification Minister Lee In-young said Wednesday Seoul's offer of family reunions with the North remains on the table, but also said the offer is not official, according to Newsis.
In August, a North Korean firm being considered at the ministry as a candidate for barter was found to be under U.S. and international sanctions. The findings prompted criticism of Lee in South Korea's parliament.