North Korean Human Rights Bill: What Happened?

Last month I wrote about the United Nation’s resolution for North Korean human rights. In this article I also mentioned South Korea’s attempt at a similar resolution, the North Korean Human Rights Act. The bill was first introduced in 2005, again in 2008, and yet again in 2011. When I wrote the article on the U.N. resolution, it was still unclear as to what the Korean National Assembly may decide to do with the bill. But with the term of the incumbent National Assembly coming to an end, it seems that the bill will once again be shoved into the dark and forgotten.

It looked as if there may finally be some hope for the bill when it was passed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also by the Ministry of Unification back in February of last year. But that’s as far as it has gotten since then. Its passage was fervently blocked by opposition party leaders who were concerned that it might anger North Korea.

To tell you a little but about the North Korean Human Rights Bill, here is a simplified description from the Chosunilbo, a Korean news website:

The bill requires the unification minister to set plans each year to support human rights reforms in the North and provide humanitarian assistance, while creating an archive to record evidence and testimonies of human rights abuses there. The bill demonstrates the attention South Koreans pay to the inhumane conditions North Koreans are suffering and aims to prompt Pyongyang to end these abuses.

It really is a shame that South Korea has continuously been unsuccessful in passing this bill. As I mentioned in my previous article, the United Nations have been adopting its North Korean Human Rights Resolution every year since 2005. The United States passed a North Korean human rights bill in 2004 and Japan did the same in 2006. And yet South Korea has yet to follow their examples.

The bill received international recognition from human rights activists who were (rightly) concerned that the bill may not pass. Twenty government officials from the United Kingdom sent letters to South Korean party officials urging that they pass the bill and Suzanne Scholte from the Defense Forum and 149 other activists also sent letters to voice their concern. But all to no avail.

Maybe the bill will be brought up again after the elections and once the National Assembly is in order. Maybe not. But we cannot stop hoping.

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