(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan call for N. Korea to take ‘immediate’ steps to end ‘all’ human rights abuses


(ATTN: UPDATES with joint statement by S. Korea, U.S., Japan in paras 1-8; CHANGES headline; ADDS photo)
By Song Sang-ho

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) — South Korea, the United States and Japan urged North Korea on Saturday to take “immediate” steps to end “all” human rights violations as they marked the 10th anniversary of the release of a landmark U.N. report on the reclusive state’s rights abuses.

The three countries’ missions to the United Nations released a joint statement commemorating the anniversary of the 2014 U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) report that accused the North Korean regime of “systematic, widespread and gross” human rights violations and made related recommendations.

“We urge the DPRK to abide by its obligations under international law, take immediate steps to end all human rights violations and abuses — including the immediate resolution of issues involving abductees, detainees, and unrepatriated prisoners of war — and engage with the U.N.’s human rights experts for that purpose,” they said in the statement.

DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Hwang Joon-kook speaks during a U.N. Security Council session at the U.N. headquarters in New York on Jan. 10, 2024, in this photo captured from the U.N. Web TV. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Hwang Joon-kook speaks during a U.N. Security Council session at the U.N. headquarters in New York on Jan. 10, 2024, in this photo captured from the U.N. Web TV. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The three countries pointed out that the report asserted the North has committed human rights violations that amount to “crimes against humanity,” and indicated “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

“Unfortunately, a decade later, this is still the case. The DPRK remains one of the world’s most repressive regimes, imposing severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion or belief, and movement,” they said.

The countries also noted the “inextricable link” between the North’s rights abuses and its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.

“The DPRK’s use of forced and exploited labor — both domestically and overseas — support its unlawful and threatening programs, as do food distribution policies that favor the military, leading to chronic malnourishment among its citizens,” they said.

Separately, Matthew Miller, the spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, reiterated calls for the North to begin a reform process to improve human rights.

“We call on the DPRK to initiate a reform process to implement the recommendations of the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry and to respect human rights,” Miller said. “We also urge the international community to take immediate action to address the egregious human rights situation in the DPRK and for Member States to respect the principle of non-refoulement.”

Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesperson, speaks during a press briefing at the department in Washington, in this Oct. 30, 2023, file photo. (Yonhap)

Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesperson, speaks during a press briefing at the department in Washington, in this Oct. 30, 2023, file photo. (Yonhap)

The COI report included recommendations that Pyongyang undertake “profound and institutional reforms without delay” to introduce checks and balances on the powers of the nation’s leader and the ruling Workers’ Party, including the introduction of an independent and impartial judiciary and a multiparty political system.

The spokesperson stressed that promoting respect for human rights and human dignity in the North remains a “top priority” for the U.S. government.

“We remain committed to shining a spotlight on human rights abuses and violations, promoting accountability for those responsible for them, and increasing access to independent information inside the DPRK,” he said.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
(END)



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