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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 265 (June 6, 2013)

2013/06/06 10:30

*** INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS

Ruling Party Pushing to Pass Bill on North Korean Human Rights

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ruling party will again push to pass a bill on North Korea's human rights during the upcoming extraordinary session of parliament, following the forced repatriation of nine North Korean defectors from China, the party chief said on June 2.

The nine North Koreans, aged between 15 and 23, were flown home on May 28 from China after being apprehended in Laos on May 10, despite South Korea's plea to send them to Seoul.

"South Korea should enact a law aimed at improving human rights conditions in the North to prevent North Korean defectors from being put in a dangerous situation as seen in the latest incident," Hwang Woo-yea, the leader of the Saenuri Party, told Yonhap News Agency by phone.

"The United States and Japan have already enacted legislation on North Korean human rights. South Korea should not leave the issue of North Korean defectors unattended any longer. The bill should be passed during the special parliamentary session."

   The National Assembly is scheduled to hold the one-month extra session from on June 3.

Saenuri submitted the bill aimed at improving human rights conditions in the North years ago, but it has been pending in parliament due to opposition from liberal parties that fear it could anger North Korea and worsen the already tense inter-Korean relations.

The bill calls for the creation of an organization to be tasked with working to improve North Korean human rights conditions, supporting human rights groups in North Korea and keeping historical records of the conditions in the communist country.

North Korea is accused of serious human rights abuses ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in concentration camps to committing torture and carrying out public executions. The country, however, has flatly denied the accusations, calling them a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

In 2004, the United States passed legislation on North Korea's human rights situation.

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Seoul Adamant against Private Group's Trip to North for Joint Event

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea stands firm against a private organization's visit to North Korea to arrange a joint event, the unification minister said on June 5, making clear the government will only accept working-level official talks to resolve all outstanding inter-Korean issues.

In May, the South Korean Committee for the Joint Implementation of the June 15 Summit Declaration requested government permission to allow its representatives to visit the North's border town of Kaesong to commemorate the anniversary of the declaration made after a historic 2000 inter-Korean summit. The first meeting was scheduled to take place during the day.

"There is no further need to dwell on the request," Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told Yonhap News Agency after attending a discussion forum about the Korean Peninsula in parliament. "The government has already laid out its position (banning the visit)."

   Ryoo pointed out that the incumbent Park Geun-hye administration's "trust building" policy of easing tensions on the peninsula is founded on the principle of keeping true to what has been said in the past.

The June declaration reached between late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il heralded a time of rapprochement between the two countries.

The ministry in charge of conducting inter-Korean talks and formulating policies made clear on numerous occasions that present conditions are not favorable for the private group to go to the North. It added that Pyongyang's move only to engage in talks with private organizations that are critical of Seoul's North Korean policy is a ploy to fuel internal discord within South Korea.

The official, meanwhile, said at the forum that people need not be overly concerned about cross-border relations.

"Historically South and North Korea have generally maintained hostile policies toward each other, and even fought a war," he pointed out. He said that dealing with the North requires considerable patience.

Pyongyang in recent months took steps to ratchet up tensions by unilaterally nullifying the armistice agreement that halted the Korean War (1950-53) and threatening to launch nuclear attacks against South Korea and the United States.

It also ordered its 53,000 workers not to report to work at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in early April, which had been the last remaining symbol of economic cooperation across the demilitarized zone.

The minister added that despite Seoul's stance on not linking non-political issues -- such as humanitarian aid -- with the North's denuclearization, agendas such as large-scale economic cooperation must be considered in the context of getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arsenal.

On the Kaesong issue, Ryoo said in a gathering hosted by the local economic daily that Seoul wants to engage in dialogue with the North as soon as possible so finished goods and production materials left behind at the industrial park can be returned to South Korean companies.

The official said that actions taken by the North that have hurt South Korean companies clearly highlighted the lack of trust that exists between the two Koreas at present and called on the North to change.

"All the North has is isolation and a backward economy, while its nuclear weapons and missiles will not promise it a brighter future," he stressed.

The North has said repeatedly that it will never give up its nuclear capability, although its special envoy to China agreed to hold a fresh round of talks to touch on all topics of interest. The communist country detonated its third nuclear device in February and claimed it succeeded in miniaturizing its weapons. Smaller nuclear warheads can be placed on top of missiles that can give the country considerable striking capability.

Pyongyang, moreover, said that it considered calls by Seoul to set "international standards" on the running of the Kaesong complex as a ploy to forcefully absorb the North and attract foreign powers into an essentially Korean operation.

(END)