Signe Paulsen, the first head of the UN Human Rights Office in Seoul who is in charge of North Korean human rights issues, said Friday, “If all civic groups only follow the government’s instructions, it is not a democratic society,” stressing, “Not revoking the legal entity of civic groups in itself is an opportunity to show the North that the South is a democratic society.” On the same day, the South’s Unification Ministry revoked the operation permits of two North Korean defector groups including Fighters for a Free North Korea for sending propaganda leaflets to the North.
Paulsen gave an interview to The Dong-A Ilbo at the UN Human Rights Office in central Seoul on the day. “In a democratic society, not all civic groups can behave exactly the way the government wants,” she said. “It is undesirable for the government to block civil society from raising voice even by revoking their operation permits.” She went on to say, “The safety of residents in border areas with the North should be guaranteed,” adding, however, “It is not propaganda leaflets that cause danger, but the North’s response to them.”
When asked whether the South Korean government is passive about raising human rights issue for North Koreans, Paulsen said, “Human rights issues should not be excluded even in the course of inter-Korean exchange to maintain good relationship,” adding, “Human rights issues should never be used as a political tool by the two Koreas.”
Ji-Sun Choi firstname.lastname@example.org