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South Korean rights envoy calls for global cooperation on North Korea

South Korea's newly appointed North Korean Human Rights Envoy has called on the international community to work with Seoul to improve the human rights of those living under Kim Jong Un's regime. .

Lee Shin-hwa, a professor of political science at Korea University in Seoul, said thathuman rights his watchdescribed the people's "survival" as follows: said he believes such efforts are necessary for "One of the most repressive nations in the world,"

Lee, two weeks into her new position that began on July 28, said she will continue to support international cooperation on human rights in North Korea. Holds the official title of Ambassador.

Created in 2016 as part of the North Korean Human Rights Act, the position has been vacant for nearly five years under former President Moon Jae-in, whoprioritized inter-Korean reconciliation. Abandoned Efforts

In an interview with VOA in Seoul on August 3, Mr. Lee emphasized that "North Korea's human rights issue is a problem for the international community."

She said, "Improving human rights issues and growing democracy go hand in hand." "With that understanding in mind, we must address North Korea's human rights not only as an issue to be resolved between South and North Korea, but also by the international community [] on the basis of universal human rights values.

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party, in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 17, 2022, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.
File - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks to the ruling Labor Party in Pyongyang, North Korea on May 17, 2022. This photo was released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea is perceived to violate basic rights of its citizens, including freedom of movement, speech and assembly. The regime, ruled by her three generations of the Kim family, uses torture, forced labor and extrajudicial killings to maintain control.

From 2016 he was the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea until July 2022. Thomas Ojea Quintana submitted his Marchfinal report to the UNHuman rights in the country have deteriorated over the past six years, according to

"For the North Korean people, the issue of human rights is a question of survival," Lee said. "For the North Korean regime, the issue is the uncomfortable truth. It is the truth that the regime wants to hide."

She went on to say, "We are at this critical crossroads." She believes democracies emphasize "human security" and North Korea wants to maintain "regime security."

She added that trying to improve human rights and inter-Korean relations should not be a paradoxical pursuit. said that not addressing is not the right approach.

The Kim regime considers tight control over its people and the development of nuclear weapons and missiles vital to its security. The Moon Jae-in government has often been criticized for pursuing inter-Korean reconciliation and neglecting human rights.

In March, Human Rights Watch and 29 non-governmental organizations wrote a letter to President Moonciting his lack of dialogue on human rights with North Korea and He criticized Japan for not participating in the international community and providing joint assistance. A UN resolution condemning North Korea's human rights abuses since 2019.


Lee's appointment also comes amid renewed focus on the repatriation of his two North Korean fishermen by the Moon administration.

South Korea's Unification Ministry released photographs in July that showed men being dragged against their will across the North-South border at Panmunjom Armistice Village. .

The Moon administration at the time said they were suspected of killing the crew of a ship coming south. said to violate both. She pointed out that South Korea is a party to her 1951 Refugee Convention and her 1967 Protocol to that Convention. She added that the South Korean judicial system, like the U.S. judicial system, presumes innocence until proven guilty. "We should continue to tell China that it violates international law," he said.

According to her April 2021 Country Report on Human Rights Practicesreleased by the US State Department, China will not allow North Korea to Approximately 50 deserters were repatriated. Relaxed COVID restrictions on entry into the country to allow deportation.

Deported North Koreans are likely to face severe punishment. The principle of non-refoulement under international human rights law stipulates that no person should be deported to a country where there are reasonable grounds to believe that they will be persecuted.

According to Human Rights Watch, China calls North Koreans "illegal economic migrants" and "currently detains at least 1,170 North Koreans." .

Lee said one of his most important aspects of his job was documenting human rights abuses in North Korea, and along with new UN Special Rapporteur Elizabeth Salmon, said he wanted to bring human rights abuses to the administration. He said that efforts should be made to hold him accountable.

"We can't punish violations now, but we can take legal action later," she said. "That in itself could put incredible pressure on the North Korean regime."

further said that stalled dialogue with North Korea should not hinder international efforts to improve human rights.

"It would be wrong to think that North Korea's human rights cannot be improved if inter-Korean dialogue remains stagnant," Mr. Lee said.

Inter-Korean dialogue and inter-Korean talks The United States and North Korea have been at a standstill since 2019. North Korea has conducted 18 nuclear tests this year, and the US and South Korea are preparing a nuclear test they said was possible "at any time."

FILE - In this May 25, 2021, photo, farmers plant rice at the Namsa Co-op Farm of Rangnang District in Pyongyang, North Korea.
File - In this May 25, 2021 photo, a farmer

Lee believes humanitarian assistance is needed to improve human rights, but not at the expense of sanctions violations. not.

"Humanitarian work is her one of the most important aspects of improving human rights," she said.

But she continued. Violate UN and [other] international sanctions in place for North Korea's nuclear weapons.No matter how difficult it may be...I believe denuclearization must be achieved.

Lee added: Difficult.

North Korea has suffered chronic food shortages, and according to Quintana's UN report, since her January 2020 regime ordered strict COVID-19 lockdown measures. , the food shortage seems to be getting worse.

Pyongyang this week declared victory over the coronavirus and claimed zero fever cases, the KCNA said on Thursday.

Kim Hyungjin and Lee Juhyun contributed to this report.