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UN adopts North rights resolution

Dec 21,2017
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus condemning the systematic and widespread violation of human rights in North Korea for the 13th consecutive year on Tuesday in New York despite opposition from Beijing, Moscow and Pyongyang.

The resolution was adopted by the assembly without a vote and for the first time noted concern over the suspension of reunions of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, an “urgent humanitarian concern of the entire Korean people.”

Such inter-Korean family reunions have not happened since October 2015, and the text noted the age of the members of separated families and expressed hope that “necessary arrangements for resuming reunions, confirming the fate of family members, exchanging letters, visiting their hometowns and holding further reunions on a larger scale and a regular basis” will be made by North and South Korea and “members of the Korean diaspora.”

The resolution this year again encouraged the UN Security Council to consider referring the situation to the International Criminal Court, which was first recommended by a commission of inquiry (COI) on the human rights situation in North Korea through a landmark report in 2014, which could amount to “crimes against humanity.”

It also urged the council to consider “the further development of sanctions in order to target effectively those who appear to be most responsible for human rights violations.”

Such human rights abuses in the regime include torture, rape, public executions, extrajudicial and arbitrary detention and extensive use of forced labor.

The resolution also called for foreign citizens detained in the country to have access to consular services and communication with their families.

There are at least six South Korean and three U.S. citizens believed to be detained by the North.

The resolution was also a reminder to respect the principle of non-refoulement, banning the forceful return of refugees to countries where they may be persecuted. China is known to have forcibly repatriated North Korean defectors, who often face persecution and even death when they return.

It noted that over half of North Koreans have suffered from major insecurities in food and medical care, including a large number of pregnant women and children under 5.

North Korean Ambassador to the UN Ja Song-nam rejected the resolution as an “unlawful and flawed document not worth consideration.” He accused it of being a “product of the political and military confrontation, plot and conspiracy” of the United States and a means to “overthrow” the regime.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]