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South Korea: Raise Human Rights in Talks with North Korea
hit : 2490    (2009-12-02)
South Korea: Raise Human Rights in Talks with North Korea Address Abductions, Refugees, and Labor issues
December 1, 2009

(New York) - The South Korean government should maintain its principled stance and consistently include a strong human rights agenda in all future dealings with North Korea, Human Rights Watch and three other nongovernmental organizations said today in a letter to the South Korean unification minister, Hyun In-taek. The letter urged South Korea to prioritize in its talks the safe return of South Korean citizens living in North Korea against their will and assistance for aging South Koreans to meet their long-separated family members in North Korea. The letter also urges South Korea to press China to protect North Korean refugees in line with China's international obligations. The letter was signed by Human Rights Watch, Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, and The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea. "Inconsistency over North Korea's human rights issues has hurt South Korea's international credibility and allowed North Korea to dismiss criticism as politically motivated," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "It is important for South Korea to maintain its principled stance in all its dealings with North Korea." The letter notes that, "South Korea has done much to resettle and assist North Korean refugees, but it can do more, particularly for those North Korean women and children who have faced sexual assault and exploitation during their flight." "On the issue of South Korean citizens held in North Korea against their will, including prisoners of war from the 1950-53 Korean War, South Korea should increase efforts to ensure their return," the letter said. "We also ask South Korea to ensure basic labor rights for North Korean workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex," the border complex where South Korean companies manufacture goods employing North Korean workers.