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Seoul should document N. Korea`s human rights crimes

Posted October. 24, 2013 07:10,   


South Korea`s Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (DCNKH) has issued its first report documenting detailed ,information of North Korean officials who committed human rights violations. The report records human rights violation cases by type such as torture, execution and imprisonment at concentration camps together with the names, dates of birth and the organizational affiliation of the violators. The center is a nongovernmental organization, which was established in 2003 by Kim Sang-heon, a North Korea human rights activist, for the collection and analyses of data on the North`s human rights violations.

A rapid surge in the number of North Koreans escaping their impoverished country since the late 1990s had resulted in a continued series of accounts and exposes about the human rights violations committed by the North. The United States enacted the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2005, with Japan following suit in 2006. The United Nations has adopted a resolution on the North`s human rights situations each year. According to the DCNKH`s "white paper" on the North`s human rights situation, the organization collected more than 46,000 cases of human rights violation this year alone.

Before the German reunification, West Germany set up a national archive in 1961 to document East Germany`s human rights crimes. The database of some 43,000 documents was used as the grounds for the liquidation of the Eastern German regime, criminal punishments of human rights violators and compensations for victims. The existence of the archive itself put pressure on the Eastern German government, reigning in the communist state`s violations.

The DCNKH is modeled after the Western German archive. However, it has many limitations as a nongovernmental organization. South Korea should come to the fore to dig out the North`s human rights violation cases and document the information of the inflictors. The North Korean Human Rights Act pending in the National Assembly calls for providing support to help improve the North`s human rights situation and setting up a North Korean human rights archive under the Ministry of Justice. Since its first introduction in 2005, however, the bill is still pending in the parliament after repeated discarding and re-introductions due to the main opposition Democratic Party`s (DP) objection on grounds that the bill could stimulate Pyongyang and negative affect the inter-Korean relations.

When the DP revised its party platform in May, it added a clause calling for its efforts to improve North Korean residents` livelihood and human rights as universal values. Though it is a welcome change by the DP, the party should cooperate more positively in legislating the human rights act on the North if it really is concerned about the human rights situation in the North.