Tuesday 1st March on the occasion of the High-level Segment at the 49th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland
Statement by H.E. Choi Jongmoon
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea
Madam High Commissioner,
I very much appreciate this chance to address the Human Rights Council this year. I wish to thank High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the OHCHR for their tireless dedication to safeguard the human rights and dignity of those left behind.
Last year, conflicts broke out in many parts of the world, which led to the suppression of civilians and attacks on human rights defenders. At the same time, the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic extended far beyond the area of health. The socio-economic crisis generated by the pandemic has led to increased inequality, discrimination and poverty.
For its part, the Council held five special sessions in an effort to deal with these and other urgent challenges to human rights. The Republic of Korea believes that the Council has an even greater responsibility in such time of crisis.
We start this year with yet another human rights crisis unfolding in Ukraine. The Republic of Korea strongly condemns Russia’s aggression, as it is a clear violation of the principles of the UN Charter. For this reason, the Republic of Korea voted yesterday in favor of convening an urgent debate on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine.
The Republic of Korea condemns all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. The reports of civilian casualties are causes of grave concern. The use of force that causes innocent casualties simply cannot be justified under any circumstances. Rapid, safe, and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to those in need in Ukraine are urgently needed in order to protect civilians.
Republic of Korea is also closely watching the somber situation in Myanmar. The serious human rights situation is continuing even after the one year anniversary of the military takeover. We stress the need to keep monitoring the situation in cooperation with the relevant mechanisms such as the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM).
Meanwhile, the situation in Afghanistan remains worrisome. About 400 “persons of merit” who came from Afghanistan to Republic of Korea are settling in as members of the Korean society. However, let us not forget the people still in Afghanistan. The fundamental rights and freedoms of all Afghans, including women and girls, should be fully respected. Mindful of this, the Republic of Korea will pledge 35 million USD this year, as part of its continuing assistance to mitigate the humanitarian crisis regarding Afghanistan.
COVID-19 is affecting every corner of the globe, and the DPRK is no exception. Republic of Korea has been closely watching the human rights and humanitarian situation in the DPRK with profound interest and concern. We wish to underline that the international community should continue to engage the DPRK for substantially improving the human rights and standard of living of the people in the North.
We also hope that the DPRK will respond to our calls for a lasting resolution to the tragedy of the separated families, which remains as one of the most urgent humanitarian issues on the Korean Peninsula.
Over the years, Republic of Korea has brought the Council’s attention to new and emerging digital technologies and their human rights implications. Two resolutions have been adopted with broad support. As a follow-up measure to the resolution, the first expert consultations will be hosted by the OHCHR next week, with a focus on the application of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to technology companies. We look forward to the active participation of all stakeholders.
Last but not least, the Republic of Korea wishes to stress the importance of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Based on its historical experience, Republic of Korea is firmly committed to advancing this agenda, especially by addressing Conflict-related Sexual Violence (CRSV) around the globe. In this vein, the Republic of Korea, a strong advocate of the survivor-centered approach, launched the “Action with Women and Peace” initiative in 2018, and convened three international conferences so far to galvanize public awareness and political will on this issue.
Three decades ago, the late Ms. KIM Hak-sun became the first survivor of the so-called “comfort women” to testify to the public her painful experience during World War Ⅱ. The only way to pay tribute to the courageous survivors is to remember the atrocious acts perpetrated against them and restore their honor and dignity. With a great sense of historical responsibility, we will continue to heed the voices of the survivors.
The Republic of Korea will continue to play an integral part in the Council’s noble work as a member of the Council. Our commitment to promote universal human rights lies at the very heart of our values. It would be an honor for us to stand here again as a members of the Council next year. Thank you. /End/