UN to Establish NK Human Rights Office

A new UN office is to be set up in South Korea to
systematically investigate human rights violations taking place in the North,
the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights  (OHCHR) has revealed.

A spokesperson for the
UN announced the move on May 28th, saying that Seoul has agreed to
allow the establishment of a UN presence, and that the South is an “important location to groups of victims [of human rights abuses] and civil
society organization focusing on human rights issues happening in North Korea.”

In its report, published earlier this year, the UN Commission
of Inquiry (COI) into North Korean human rights proposed a range of measures to
be taken in light of its findings, one of which was the establishment of such
an office. The UN Human Rights Council
subsequently adopted its most recent resolution on the matter in late March, which
made provision for a field office to focus exclusively on North Korean human
rights matters.

It is hoped that the new office will improve the
efficiency of investigations into human rights violations taking place in the
North, and could even reduce their frequency and intensity. However, it is also
a key symbolic manifestation of international concern over the state of human
rights in North Korea.

Upon hearing the news, lawmaker and
former human rights activist Ha Tae Kyung of the ruling Saenuri Party welcomed
the move, telling Daily NK that locating the UN office in Seoul was inevitable,
and that, “Our government must actively cooperate with the UN, for instance by
passing the North Korean Rights Act.”

ICNK Executive Secretary Kwon Eun Kyeong, one of the leading
figures in establishing the COI, added, “If one can say that hitherto it has
been South Korean NGOs taking the central role in human rights activities, from
now on it will become the field office,” adding, “The office will work to
confirm who is responsible for various North Korean human rights violations.”

“We can say that in
the past South Korea was a beneficiary of human rights [activities],” she went on. “Well now
it has the chance to increase its international status as a developed state
that is respectful of human rights.”

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