South Korea skipped U.N. North Korea human rights meeting, report says

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Oct. 21 (UPI) — South Korea opted out of North Korea human rights discussions at the United Nations earlier this month, according to a South Korean press report.

Kukmin Ilbo reported Wednesday Seoul was invited to take part in the meeting of the Third Committee of the 75th United Nations General Assembly, when U.N. official Craig Mokhiber presented human rights reports on North Korea and other countries of concern.

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A South Korean foreign ministry representative told the newspaper Seoul is staying away from co-sponsoring any U.N. Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions, even though draft resolutions by the European Union are “in progress.”

The South Korean press report comes after Radio Free Asia reported Seoul did not attend the meeting on Oct. 13, when representatives of the United States, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Australia and Britain were present. A EU delegate told RFA they had been notified of South Korea’s decision to not attend.

The North Korea human rights resolution of the U.N. Third Committee has been adopted annually for 15 years. Seoul has co-sponsored the resolution condemning Pyongyang’s rights abuses every year since 2008. In 2019, for the first time in more than a decade, South Korea did not endorse the motion.

Seoul’s decision to not address Pyongyang’s rights abuses comes at a sensitive time in inter-Korea relations. In September, South Korea said a civil servant shot dead in the North had defected. The victim’s brother, Lee Rae-jin, said his sibling was being framed for political reasons.

Lee, who has requested the U.N. Human Rights Office in Seoul to investigate his brother’s death, met with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Wednesday, Yonhap reported.

During the 25-minute meeting, Lee said his brother had been improperly accused of defecting and blamed South Korea’s “hasty announcement” following the incident, according to the report.

According to Lee, Kang said the government would do as much as possible to cooperate with requests. Seoul has also asked for Beijing’s assistance in repatriating the victim’s remains from the North, the report says.