South Korea’s human rights watchdog under fire for North Korea statement

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Jan. 7 (UPI) — South Korea’s National Human Rights Commission made an inaccurate claim about Seoul’s North Korean Human Rights Act in a recent report that recommended the repeal of the law.

The South Korean government agency said in its 2021-25 action plan published on Tuesday it recommends the act be declared null and void, citing “recommendations from the United Nations,” the Chosun Ilbo and Korea Economic Daily reported Thursday.

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The law, which passed in 2016, would enable the government to establish a South Korean Human Rights Foundation Archive and an advisory committee. The archive would be an official record of North Korean rights abuses that could potentially be used as grounds for sentencing North Korean authority figures.

The “U.N. recommendation” mentioned in the Commission’s report referred to motions made during the Universal Periodic Review held in 2017. During the review of the human rights records of all U.N. member states, North Korea had expressed opposition to the South’s human rights law. None of the other 99 participating states protested Seoul’s law. The Commission said in its report the opposition was from the international body, however, according to local press reports.

The agency also raised concerns about provoking the North in the report, according to Korea Economic Daily.

“There is a concern that [the law] will be used to attack the North Korean regime,” the report said.

Activists are condemning the Commission. Hubert Younghwan Lee, executive director at Transitional Justice Working Group, said the agency was manipulating facts. Lee also said the killing of a South Korean fisheries official in the North last year remains to be investigated, according to the report.

South Korea’s questioning of the human rights law comes only months after the government had suggested it would work with NGOs to advance rights protections.

In December South Korea’s ruling party lawmakers passed a bill banning the launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets at the border.