In the News – S. Korea to increase diplomatic pressure on N. Korea over human rights issues: official
SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) — South Korea plans to increase diplomatic pressure on North Korea over human rights issues, including the case of three people from the South believed to have been held in the communist nation for decades, a senior official said Friday.
The move could further exacerbate the already frayed relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.
An immediate focus of the campaign is expected to be on the case of Shin Suk-ja and her two daughters who are believed to have been held in the North since 1987, a year after her husband, Oh Kil-nam, fled the communist nation.
Oh claims his family was lured to the North in 1985 via West Germany where he was studying.
But a senior North Korean diplomat told a U.N. group last month that Shin had died of hepatitis and the two daughters do not regard Oh as their father since “he abandoned his family and drove their mother to death.”
“The situation is that we can no longer turn a blind eye to human rights problems in North Korea, including the case of Ms. Shin, political prison camps” and others, a senior presidential official said. “The government will mobilize all diplomatic channels possible for this.”
Earlier this week, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called for greater international attention to the Shin case as he met with Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf. Sweden’s deputy foreign minister, who was present at the meeting, promised to cooperate actively with Seoul’s efforts.
“Though it is difficult to have direct talks with North Korea, we’re trying to have contact with various channels,” such as the U.N. General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the European Union, Sweden and other nations that can talk to Pyongyang, the official said.
North Korea has long been labeled one of the worst human rights violators in the world. The regime does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps and keeps a tight control over outside information.
But Pyongyang has long bristled at any talk of its human rights records, denouncing it as part of U.S.-led attempts to topple the regime.
Relations between the two Koreas worsened seriously after President Lee took office in early 2008 as North Korea protested strongly to his policy of linking aid to progress in international efforts to end Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programs.
The ties plunged further after the North’s two deadly attacks on the South in 2010.
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