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UN General Assembly slams North on rights

Dec 19,2018
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution Monday calling for accountability for systematic and widespread human rights violations in North Korea for the 14th consecutive year, a move immediately rejected by Pyongyang’s top diplomat to the United Nations. The non-binding resolution co-authored by Japan and the European Union condemned North Korea “for diverting its resources into pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles over the welfare of its people” and was passed by consensus in the 193-member General Assembly headquartered in New York.

The resolution again recommended that the UN Security Council consider referring the North Korean human rights situation to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It also suggested “further development of sanctions in order to target effectively those who appear to be most responsible for human rights violations” which “may constitute crimes against humanity.” In a departure from the previous year, the resolution welcomed this year’s “diplomatic efforts,” a nod to the North Korea-U.S. and inter-Korean summits and the denuclearization negotiations, and pointed to “the importance of dialogue and engagements for the improvement of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the country.”

The resolution further addressed the “urgency and importance” of the issue of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War. It welcomed the resumption of reunions of families in August, as well as commitments made at a summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Sept. 19 in Pyongyang “to strengthen humanitarian cooperation to fundamentally resolve the issue of separated families.”

North Korean Ambassador to the UN Kim Song immediately lashed out at the resolution, calling it “fabricated” and a “product of political plot and hostile forces.” Unlike the previous four years, the United States failed to garner enough votes earlier this month to raise the North Korean human rights record as an agenda item in the UN Security Council this year.

A Security Council meeting on North Korea’s human rights was held every year since a 2014 landmark report that year by a UN commission of inquiry on the wide-ranging human rights abuses in North Korea, which consequently led to tougher resolutions in the General Assembly.

The North Korean Mission to the United Nations in a statement Monday called out the failed convening of the human rights meeting and said that the Security Council “is neither a place for discussion on any human rights issue” nor a platform for it to be “politicized to flare up confrontation.” Countries including China and Russia, permanent members of the Security Council and traditional backers of the North, have distanced themselves from the resolution. The resolution last month passed the General Assembly’s Third Committee on humanitarian affairs, and South Korea was one of the 61 co-sponsors.

“Our government took part in the consensus as a part of our efforts with the international community toward the substantive improvement of the rights of the North Korean people,” a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. “We laud that this resolution welcomes the current diplomatic efforts and the inter-Korean talks toward the fundamental resolution of the issue of reunions of war-torn families.”

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