Go to contents

South Korea Criticized for Double Standards on Human Rights Issues

South Korea Criticized for Double Standards on Human Rights Issues

Posted November. 01, 2005 03:01,   


As the South Korean government is expected to abstain from voting on a resolution regarding North Korea’s human rights violations that will be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly early this month, some international community members are criticizing the South Korean government and claiming that it is applying double standards to the human rights issue.

The South Korean government did not participate in voting on the resolution against North Korea’s human rights conditions that has been presented three times to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. On the other hand, it did not miss the opportunity to vote for similar resolutions on human rights conditions in Belarus, Turkmenistan and Cuba, which are former socialist countries.

China and Russia, which uphold sovereignty over human rights, usually vote against such resolutions on human rights, while the U.S. and the European Union vote for them. However, Korea has taken sides with China and Russia when it comes to North Korea’s human rights issue, while standing by Western countries in other occasions.

Belarus, which was separated from the former Soviet Union in 1991, has been criticized for repression on the opposition party and the media that is critical to about the government by the current Alexander Lukashenko government. A resolution on its human rights violation was introduced to the U.N. Human Rights Commission last and this April and was adopted this year.

A journalist of Belarus working in Moscow complained on October 31 about the South Korean government’s attitude by saying, “North Korea does not even have opposition parties or critical press to be suppressed.” His point was that the South Korean government should apply the same standards to all human rights resolutions.

It is true that those countries of former Soviet Union, on which human rights resolutions are passed in the U.N., have much better human rights conditions compared to North Korea, which is notorious for chronic food shortages and concentration camps for political prisoners.

South Korean government’s dual approach to this issue can damage its relations with those countries. Belarus is known to feel offended by South Korea’s voting but refrains from showing such feelings because it strongly hopes to have presidential visit from South Korea for economic cooperation.

In the upcoming U.N. General Assembly, human rights resolution against Uzbekistan will be introduced along with that against North Korea. The two countries maintain close relations with South Korea. The South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun paid a state visit to Uzbekistan this May.

If the South Korean government takes a dual approach in the upcoming voting, it may trigger protest from the Uzbek government.

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com