WASHINGTON: South Korea’s Washington ambassador Cho Hyun-dong said on Friday he was sure North Korean human rights would be given significant attention in summit talks between South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol and US president Joe Biden next week.
In a virtual address to the same event at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, South Korean foreign minister Park Jin said the “dire” rights situation in North Korea must not be forgotten and the world should work together to address it.
South Korean president Yoon is to meet with Biden on Wednesday during a weeklong state visit to the US.
Yoon has sought to turn the spotlight on North Korean rights following a failed policy of engagement with Pyongyang pursued by his predecessor Moon Jae-in. He said last month the international community should have better knowledge about the situation.
“We should never allow ourselves to forget the suffering of the North Korean people,” Park said. “For only by remembering and recounting the dire human rights situation on the ground can we bring about change.”
South Korea’s Washington envoy Cho Hyun-dong said that with Yoon’s state visit just around the corner, he was “sure that our two presidents’ discussion will afford significant attention to the critical issue of North Korea and human rights.”
On a later panel, Jung Pak, the US state department’s deputy special representative for North Korea, declined to say whether the two sides would discuss practical action on rights at the summit, but added, “We’ve been pretty consistent about talking about these issues at all levels of the US government.”
UN human rights investigator Tomas Ojea-Quintana said last month that the world powers bear responsibility for ignoring crimes against humanity that may still be perpetrated in North Korea amid a focus on its nuclear programme.
He said he had received information confirming the findings of a landmark 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry on extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, rape, forced abortion, sexual violence, political persecution and “the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation” in the isolated country.
Ojea-Quintana said the UN Security Council should refer grave North Korean violations to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.