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The Role of South Korea in North Korean Democratization and Human Rights

October 26, 2010

The following is the prepared text of a presentation at the 2010 International Conference on Human Rights sponsored by NKnet, the Sejong Institute and NED. The conference was held in Washington, D.C., on October 21.

1. Lee Myeong Bak Government’s Basic Stance on North Korean Democracy and Human Rights

○ Resolved to react proactively toward human rights and democratization in North Korea
– Applying universal values and standards to NK democratization and human rights
– Recognizing NK democratization and human rights as separate from inter-Korean relations

○ Maintenance of NK democratization and HR related policy and legislation, domestic and international
– Participating in 2008, 2009 UN GA NKHR resolution as co-sponsor and voting in favor of it
– In 2010, at the 13th Human Rights Council, participating as co-sponsor of resolution on North Korean human rights and voting for it
– When US North Korean HR Ambassador and UN Special Rapporteur visit South Korea, government explains NKHR and consults on how to support
– North Korean Human Rights Act passed National Assembly Foreign Relations and Unification Committee on February 11, 2010 (pending in the Judiciary Committee)

2. Change in Policy-Making Structure related to North Korean Human Rights and Democratization

○ Passive reaction of Kim Dae Jung/ Roh Moo Hyun administrations, based on engagement policies
– To promote gradual, actual improvement through inter-Korean peace and cooperation
– NSC played leading role to give inter-Korean relations priority
– Incongruous with international relations and international society’s general attitude
– Bound too much by inter-Korean summit (nonintervention and mutual cooperation in international stage)

○ LMB Government’s North Korean Policy under International Cooperation
– Head of National Security Minister-level Meeting is moved to Minister of Foreign Affairs
– Inter-Korean relationship is adjusted to become a part of national policy, approached as a relationship between normal countries rather than a special relationship within a nation.

3. Policy Change on International Stage

○ Change of Tone: From passive, quiet diplomacy to proactive diplomacy
– Avoiding suggesting theoretical answers to consider North Korea’s stance and to maintain amicable inter-Korean relations
– Working to improve North Korean human rights with humanitarian aid; refusing the Sunshine policy that focused only on humanitarian aid

○ 13th UN Human Rights Council (Geneva, 2010.3.18)
– Adopted UPR final report on North Korean human rights
– Recommended 169 points, including ending public execution, made by 52 member states
– North Korea refused 50 points, including allowing UN Special Rapporteur’s visit and research and stopping military drills with children

○ 14th UNHRC (Geneva, 2010.6.18)
– Marzuki Darusman, former head of Indonesian National Human Rights Commission appointed as new Special Rapporteur

4. Maintenance of Domestic NKHR and Democratization-related Departments

○ Ministry of Unification represents inter-Korean relations and productive humanitarianism with principle
– Defining 2010 as a turning point for NK nuclear issue and improvement of inter-Korean relations
– Priority on protecting South Korean nationals’ lives
– Searching for fundamental solutions for abductees, former POWs and separated families to realize humanitarian goals
– Reducing subsidies of developmental aid, and expanding purely humanitarian aid like disease prevention and emergency aid
– Expanding ‘total care for defector residents’ to combine job-searching and settlement support as the number of defectors reaches twenty thousand

○ Establishing principles for humanitarian aid to North Korea
– Concentrating on purely humanitarian assistance of goods, following the ‘choice and concentration rule’
– Considering indirect assistance via international or private organizations
– Selecting capable private organizations that have supported the weakest groups like children, pregnant women and the handicapped
– Seeking methods to guarantee transparency in distribution to benefit ordinary people in North Korea

○ Writing mid-long term roadmap by creating NKHR team at National Human Rights Commission
– It was created on April 25, 2010, and has dealt with defectors, NKHR-related seminar and discussions
– Will write NKHR roadmap for North Korean people, defectors, POWs, abductees and separated families
– Survey among female defectors over human rights violations while settling in South Korea (Feb. 16, 2010)
– North Korean political prison camp research released (2010.9.13)

5. Resubmitting NKHR Act at National Assembly

○ While Grand National Party submitted NKHR Act at 17th Assembly in 2005, Uri Party opposed and the legislation failed

○ GNP, now ruling party, passed NKHR Act in the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Feb. 11, 2010 at the 18th National Assembly
– The legislation is pending in the Judiciary Committee, due to opposition by Democratic Party
– NKHR Act prescribes establishment and operation of North Korean Human Rights Archives, and NKHR Foundation to research human rights conditions in North Korea
– If North Korean human rights issue is supported by legislation, it can be pursued systematically and consistently in the future, as a main policy topic

○ Main contents of the NKHR Act is advanced in terms of symbolism and utility, comparable to that of the United States and Japan
– Ministry of Unification, as the competent ministry of North Korean human rights, forms an advisory committee, and devises and executes detailed plan
– By creating archive of North Korean human rights violation cases, and with a government agency participating in it, its credibility is increased and legal binding power is guaranteed
– Budget for NKHR is increased, rescue activities for overseas defectors are stimulated, and outside information effectively is delivered to North Korean people

6. Future Tasks for North Korean Democratization and Human Rights

○ Bi-partisan Drive to Pass NKHR Act
– Given importance and urgency of NKHR Act, sincere approach is necessary
– Ruling party’s political maneuvering is necessary to pass NKHR Act with bi-partisan support

○ To be ready for emergency situation that could happen while NK regime is moving toward succession, and to support an alternative faction after Kim Jong Il
– As main job of the newly established North Korean Defector Foundation, a network for North Korean democratization is built, to help defector organizations to lead the democracy movement
– Given reactionary nature of three-generation succession, to organize breakaway factions in and outside of North Korea, and to support North Korean democracy movement among defector organizations
– To maintain information flow into North Korea via radio, leaflets, published materials, cell phones and DVDs, systematically and organically, and to expand human and material support

○ To establish connection between improvement of inter-Korean relations and NKHR and democratization
– To include NKHR and democracy improvement clause in all inter-Korean relations and cooperation projects

○ To create social consensus on North Korean democratization and human rights
– While reestablishing reunification design, implement a social contract and discussion structure for North Korean democracy and human rights
– A nationwide institution on North Korean human rights, democracy and inter-Korean cooperation, in which national parties, religious and vocational organizations and experts participate, is established as a key organ of the constitutional institution, the National Unification Advisory Council

○ Organic and practical cooperation regime with international organizations built
– By boosting the role of North Korean human rights ambassador, it plays more active role in UNHRC and UNGA
– Increased cooperation with EU, the United States and Japan

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