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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 226 (Sept. 6, 2012)

S. Korea's Activist Groups Proclaim 'Month of N.K. Human Rights' for September

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Some 30 South Korean activist groups have proclaimed September the month of North Korean human rights in a bid to promote the human rights movement while addressing human rights abuses by the secretive communist regime,
In a proclamation ceremony on Sept. 3, the civic groups urged the National Assembly to pass a legislation bill on North Korean human rights while the parliament is convened for its regular session.

   The organizations, including Seoul-based civic group Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights and the Council of North Korean Human Rights Associations, explained they chose this month to address the North Korean human rights issue as the United Nations convenes its general assembly in September.

   The nongovernmental organizations voiced concern over the gravity of the North Korean human rights situation and urged the autocratic regime to display genuine efforts to improve the rights of its people.

   A project team comprising the 30 groups will also conduct a variety of events throughout the month to take issue with the dismal human rights situations in the reclusive North Korea.

   Among the events will be an international film festival, a photo exhibition, an international seminar and a concert, all related to North Korea's human rights violations.

   North Korea has long been labeled one of the worst human rights violators in the world. The regime does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps and keeps a tight control over information reaching the outside world.

   Pyongyang has long bristled at any talk of its human rights records, denouncing it as part of U.S.-led attempts to topple the regime.

   In the proclamation ceremony, Rep. Rhee In-je of the minor conservative Liberty Unification Party, who introduced the human rights bill, said he will play a role to have the bill pass through the parliament. He added the legal ground is needed to provide for the government systematically supporting the human rights movement in North Korea.

   Kim Moon-soo, governor of Gyeonggi Province, said his provincial government employs more than 20 North Korean defectors as public officials, and will do its best to improve the human rights conditions in North Korea.

   Kim Chun-sik, vice unification minister, said the North Korean human rights issue also covers families separated between the two Koreas, including South Koreans abducted by the North, prisoners of war (POW) from the 1950-53 Korean War and North Korean defectors now living in the South.

   The vice minister said cooperation between the government, civic organizations and the international community is necessary to resolve the North's human rights issues.