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Ruling party chief calls for passage of N.K. human rights bill

2014/01/14 11:28

SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- The chief of the ruling Saenuri Party called for the passage of a long-pending bill on North Korea's human rights situation Tuesday, citing the opposition leader's renewed interest in the issue.

Hwang Woo-yea's call came a day after his counterpart Kim Han-gil of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) told a New Year's press conference that his party would prepare a bill aimed at improving the human rights situation and livelihoods of the public in the communist country.

"Fortunately, DP Chairman Kim Han-gil yesterday expressed a positive stance on improving the North Korean human rights situation," Hwang said in his own New Year's press conference at the ruling party's headquarters.

"I hope (the bill) will be passed without fail upon agreement between the ruling and opposition parties during the extraordinary session of the National Assembly in February."

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

In a shocking development, North Korea executed Jang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle and regent of leader Kim Jong-un, for treason last month.

South Korea has yet to adopt legislation on North Korea's human rights due to long-standing differences between the rival parties over its aims.

The ruling party has called for measures to prevent human rights abuses in the communist nation and to punish those involved in the acts, while the DP has insisted on increasing humanitarian support to the North Korean people.

The opposition party's stance reflects concerns that a hard-line approach to the North Korean human rights situation could anger the North and worsen the two countries' relations.

"A bill on North Korean human rights should literally be a bill for the improvement of North Korea's human rights situation," Hwang said. "The specific ways of supporting (North Korea) are contained in a separate law on supporting North Korea, so they should be handled by that law."

   A North Korean human rights bill, in line with international standards, should aim to promote measures and activities that could help improve human rights conditions in the North, he added.

The United States and Japan passed legislation on North Korea's human rights situation in 2004 and 2006, respectively.