1. Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang, Kyung-wha, who is participating in the High-level Segment of the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, delivered a statement on the afternoon of February 24 (local time). In the statement, she said that the Republic of Korea, as a member of the Human Rights Council for the term 2020-2022, will continue to take an active part in the international community’s efforts to respond actively to the growing inequality, discrimination and hatred across the world and to resolve new challenges with human rights implications, such as climate change, digital technologies and novel pathogens.
2. Minister Kang explained how the ROK government is responding to the recent rapid spread of COVID-19, and added that the government is making public relevant information as transparently as possible and beefing up its capacity to respond to the outbreak.
o Minister Kang also expressed concern over incidents of xenophobia and hatred, discriminatory immigration controls and arbitrary repatriation programs against individuals from the affected countries, and stressed the importance of respective governments’ efforts to prevent such incidents.
3. Minister Kang emphasized that the ROK government will also actively participate in the international community’s efforts to respond to new challenges being discussed at the Human Rights Council, including new and emerging technologies and human rights, climate change, and local governments and human rights.
o Noting that a human rights-centered approach is important in the era of digital technologies, Minister Kang said that the ROK government will contribute actively to expanding the related discussions at the Council, building upon the adoption of the resolution on new and emerging digital technologies and human rights led by the ROK in June last year.
o In addition, Minister Kang expressed hope that the “Partnering for Green Growth and Global Goals 2030 (P4G)” Summit, to be hosted by the ROK government in June this year as part of active response to climate change challenges, would not only lay the groundwork for COP 26, but also serve as an opportunity for the international community to set higher goals in responding to climate change.
o Minister Kang stressed the role of local governments in promoting human rights and democracy as well as in achieving the sustainable development goals, adding that the 10th “World Human Rights Cities Forum” will be held in Gwangju this May.
4. Noting that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325, Minister Kang said that there have been a number of significant breakthroughs in the improvement of women’s rights, but sexual violence as a weapon of war persists in conflict zones, and emphasized that to fundamentally change this unacceptable reality, it is imperative to take victim and survivor-centered approach, as stressed by the UN human rights treaty bodies.
o Minister Kang said that the ROK government is continuing its efforts to restore dignity and honor of the victims of “comfort women” and to leave the issue as a historical lesson for current and future generations.
o Minister Kang went on to say that the ROK supported Rohingya and Syrian refugee women as well as victims of sexual violence in Afghanistan and the Central African Republic last year through the “Action with Women and Peace” initiative, hosted an international conference in July last year to raise the international community’s awareness of the issue, and is preparing for the 2nd meeting this year with a sharper focus on the victim-centered approach.
5. Mentioning that North Korea undertook its 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) last year, Minister Kang hoped that the North Korean authorities would faithfully implement the recommendations it had accepted, including the resolution of the issue of the separated families recommended by the ROK government, and said that the ROK government will continue to work closely with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK as well as the OHCHR Office in Seoul.
6. Noting that the UN human rights mechanisms are facing momentous change, including the review of the human rights treaty bodies, Minister Kang emphasized that the international community should strengthen the resolve to protect the rights and dignity of people on the ground, and that the ROK government will be a faithful and humble partner in this endeavor.