(Seoul) – South Korea should press for human rights issues to be included in all discussions with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including in the agenda of the summit between South Korean president Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for April 27, 2018, Human Rights Watch and 39 other leading global nongovernmental organizations said in a letter to Moon today.
“We welcome the renewed inter-Korean dialogue, but it will only be meaningful to the people of North Korea if it leads to improvements in the dire human rights situation in North Korea,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “As the UN Security Council has recognized, human rights abuses in North Korea and threats to international peace and security are intrinsically connected.”
The letter – signed by 40 organizations, including coalitions, representing more than 200 nongovernmental organizations from Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and North America – calls on Moon to:
- Urge Kim to act on United Nations human rights recommendations;
- Engage on inter-Korean human rights issues, including human rights dialogues and information exchanges;
- Push for regular reunion meetings of separated families; and
- Increase inter-Korean people-to-people contact.
The organizations also called on the South Korean government to provide much-needed humanitarian aid with appropriate monitoring.
Since the Korean War in the 1950s, an estimated one million Koreans have been separated or forcibly removed from their families through displacement during the war, enforced disappearances and abductions, or following escape from North Korea. The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that abuses in North Korea were without parallel in the contemporary world, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence.
On March 31, 2018, North Korea criticized South Korea’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha for calling on North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs and improve its human rights record. North Korean media said her remarks were “an open political provocation to the DPRK and an intolerable act of chilling the atmosphere for dialogue.” On April 4, 2018, Kang told reporters that Seoul maintains a “firm stance” on the dire human rights situation in the North, but that to include the issue in the agenda the government will need more preparation.
“South Korea should not give in to North Korean bluster and threats on human rights,” Adams said. “President Moon’s leadership is crucial in efforts to help improve human rights conditions in North Korea while at the same time finding real, long-term solutions to the security crisis.”