Leaders ought to handle human rights abuses in North Korea

[Herald Interview] ‘Leaders should address NK human rights violations on equal footing as nuclear arms’

Leaders ought to handle human rights abuses in North Korea on an equal level with nuclear weapons.

Leaders ought to handle human rights abuses in North Korea

They were frequently apathetic in addressing the reclusive regime’s horrifying history of human rights violations out of concern that it would only cause further enmity during the decades-long efforts South Korea and the United States have made with other nations to persuade the North to become a “normal state” and give up its nuclear ambition.

However, Lee Shin-wha, Seoul’s ambassador-at-large for North Korean human rights issues, claimed in an interview with The Korea Herald on Friday that their excessively cautious approach has “emboldened” and “empowered” the young North Korean leader to ultimately declare his nation a nuclear-armed state, while the human rights situation has further deteriorated.
Lee said officials should take action to put the problem on “same footing” with the regime’s nuclear arms and hold the regime accountable for their wrongdoings in order to avoid making the same mistakes as in the past and truly support North Koreans’ human rights.

When negotiating with North Korea in the past, Lee said, “I think it was a mistake (for negotiators to regard the subject of human rights as a point of disturbance).

“North Korea has approved a legislation stating that it is “irreversible” that it is a “nuclear-armed state.” Denuclearization is a goal that we are further away from than ever.”
When criticising Pyongyang for firing missiles, Lee has urged US President Joe Biden and other leaders to also bring up North Korea’s abuses of human rights.

In July, President Yoon Suk-yeol named Lee, a professor of international politics, to the position of ambassador-at-large for North Korean human rights problems, filling the position that had been unfilled for the previous five years under the liberal Moon Jae-in administration.

While South Korea advocates for all human rights, North Korea’s human rights issue has long been a contentious political issue that has received varying degrees of attention depending on the North Korean strategy adopted by previous administrations.

Compared to Yoon’s liberal predecessor Moon Jae-in, Seoul has grown more outspoken about the need to improve the human rights situation in North Korea since the May election of the conservative Yoon administration, which takes a tough position against Pyongyang.

Numerous allegations of human rights crimes against North Korea exist. Unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government, forced disappearances by the government, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment and punishment by government authorities, including torture, and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including in political prison camps, are all reported to occur in a country that is under a dictatorship.


Leaders ought to handle human rights abuses in North Korea

Redefining what it means to handle North Korean human rights is one of the first tasks that should be carried out on a national and international level, according to Lee.

With regard to North Korea’s human rights, Lee suggested that we “redefine what that means” and “establish a global boundary that can be accepted and upheld by all factions and states inside and outside the country.”

The top goal would be to bring individuals responsible for violating human rights in the North accountable, even if the ambassador-at-large stated that she would like to hear many perspectives before coming to a decision.

“We should not let those acts to go unpunished, and we should agree that there is no statute of limitations on the crimes committed by the North Korean leadership, as there was with the Nazis,Lee said.
Providing humanitarian help is a further component of addressing North Koreans’ human rights; she referred to this as “constructive engagement.” According to her, this would be a crucial step in helping the common people in the North live better lives.

Lee also stated that since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the most significant declarations that the entire world respects, they should use it to come to an agreement on specific articles to apply to the situation in North Korea.

Lee asked the international community to develop a strong, albeit non-binding, set of guidelines.
And the world community should establish a debate forum, which may be the United Nations, to establish such laws.

Collaboration with similar nations, such as the US and Europe, is also essential. States would then be able to consider how to interact with countries that disagree with them with that strong unity, according to Lee.