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2008/11/22 06:57 KST
(LEAD) U.N. committee approves resolution on N. Korean human rights improvement

   NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (Yonhap) -- A United Nations committee Friday approved a draft resolution calling for improvement in human rights in North Korea.

   The resolution, initiated by South Korea, the European Union, Japan and 48 other countries, was approved 95-24, with 62 abstentions at the Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural issues.

The resolution is the first of its kind initiated by South Korea, which had been reluctant to endorse or initiate any resolution on North Korea's human rights records for fear of provoking the isolated communist neighbor with which Seoul is seeking eventual reunification.

   The former liberal South Korean government of Roh Moo-hyun zigzagged on the sensitive issue. It abstained on a vote for a similar resolution in 2005, voted for it in 2006 -- soon after North Korea's detonation of its first nuclear device, then stepped back to abstain last year.

   The conservative Lee Myung-bak government, which was launched in February this year, has said it will take issue with North Korea's human rights record and pledged not to pursue inter-Korean cooperation projects unless Pyongyang abandons its nuclear arsenal.

   The draft resolution urged North Korea to "respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms" by "immediately putting an end to the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights."
It also called for the North to "address the issue of impunity and ensuring that those responsible for violations of human rights are brought to justice before an independent judiciary."
Also included in the recommendations are "tackling the root causes leading to refugee outflows and prosecuting those who exploited refugees by human smuggling, trafficking and extortion, while not criminalizing the victims; and by extending its full cooperation to the Special Rapporteur on the issue and to other United Nations human rights mechanisms."
The resolution, however, dropped language supporting the joint declaration made at the end of an inter-Korean summit on Oct. 4 last year.

   The U.N. General Assembly will likely endorse the resolution at a vote next month.

   Pak Duk-hoon, deputy chief of North Korea's permanent mission to the United Nations in New York, said before the voting, "We strongly oppose the resolution as it is a product of a political ploy to forcibly change North Korea's regime and ideology."
Pak called on other nations to join forces with it to reject "any attempt by the United States and other Western states to politicize the human rights issue."
The North Korean diplomat denounced South Korea for manipulating to drop the clause on support for the Oct. 4 joint declaration in this year's resolution, while categorizing the South's vote as an act against unification.