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South Korean lawmakers urge enforcement of North Korean human rights law

South Korea responded to North Korea’s rights abuses with a new human rights act but official progress stalled after 2016. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
South Korea responded to North Korea’s rights abuses with a new human rights act but official progress stalled after 2016. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

March 2 (UPI) -- South Korea's main opposition politicians are calling for the enactment of a North Korean Human Rights Act after recommending nominees for a North Korea Human Rights Foundation that never launched after 2016.

Lawmakers in Seoul are urging the government to pay more attention to North Korean human rights violations at a time when officials in charge of inter-Korean affairs have shown greater interest in cooperation with Pyongyang.

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Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat now lawmaker with the People Power Party, said Tuesday at a seminar Seoul is a "stakeholder with responsibility" on North Korean human rights in the international community, Newsis reported Tuesday.

In 2016, South Korean conservatives sought to pass a law to establish a South Korean Human Rights Foundation Archive and an advisory committee. The archive would be an official record of North Korean rights abuses that could potentially be used as grounds for sentencing North Korean authority figures. The foundation may have never launched following the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.

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Joo Ho-young, a main opposition lawmaker, said Tuesday the ruling Democratic Party had "delayed" the law's enactment for 11 years. The government has even closed the office for the foundation, Joo said, according to the report.

Joo also slammed South Korea's National Human Rights Commission for its report in January. The agency's 2021-25 action plan claimed the United Nations recommended repealing South Korea's North Korea rights act, but activists have said the statement was a mischaracterization and only North Korea opposed the South's human rights law during the Universal Period Review in 2017.

North Korea is notorious for abuses in its prison camps, where defectors have said torture and inhumane treatment are commonplace.

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South Korea's unification ministry did not address those allegations on Tuesday.

Unification Minister Lee In-young said during the 52nd anniversary of the ministry the "Korean Peninsula peace community and economic community" are not "policy slogans," but the most "current and practical task" for the country, News 1 reported.

North Korea has rejected offers of talks from the South.

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