1. On Friday, September 15, Foreign Minister Park attended an international forum hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the DPRK. He emphasized that even after the COI report was released, human rights abuses in North Korea, such as public executions and forced abortions, are still ongoing, and that "peace without human rights (in North Korea) is a hypocritical spurious peace," calling for attention to the nexus between the North Korea’s nuclear issue and the human rights issue.
2. In particular, Minister Park noted that North Korea has squandered its scarce resources on its nuclear and missile programs, causing its people to suffer from hunger; North Korea has been able to develop weapons of mass destruction with political impunity by depriving its citizens of freedom of expression and access to information; and North Korea has exploited North Korean workers overseas to finance its nuclear and missile programs. Minister Park called North Korea's behaviors irrational, irresponsible, and immoral, noting that "just as peace without denuclearization is fake peace, peace without human rights is hypocritical spurious peace."
3. Noting that the Yoon Suk Yeol Government, aspiring to make a Global Pivotal State, is actively striving to contribute to global freedom, peace, and prosperity by putting the promotion of universal values and the rule-based order at the center of its foreign policy, Minister Park said that the ROK will speak up and speak out on North Korean human rights in solidarity with the international community and civil society.
4. In the context of the recent Russia-North Korea summit, Minister Park called for an immediate halt to North Korea's nuclear and missile development and all arms trade, which are in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and emphasized that the permanent members of the Security Council have a heavier duty to abide by the resolutions adopted by the Council.
5. The Forum, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the UN COI, was attended by ▲Lee Shin-hwa, Ambassador-at-large for International Cooperation on North Korean Human Rights, ▲Lord David Alton, the Member of the UK House of Lords, ▲Michael Kirby, former UN COI Chair, ▲James Heenan, Head of the UN Human Rights Office in Seoul, ▲Hyun In-taek, Former Minister of Unification, ▲Oh Joon, former Permanent Representative of ROK to the UN and ▲Shin Gi-wook, Professor of Stanford University among other experts from the political, academic, and civil society sectors. With a decade having passed since the establishment of the COI, the participants deliberated on the situation of human rights in North Korea and strategies for its advancement.
6. The participants agreed that there has been no improvement in the human rights situation in North Korea over the past 10 years, and as the recommendations of the COI report have not been implemented, they argued that the international community should continue to call for accountability to bring about change in North Korea. Additionally following opinions were also presented: ▲the belief that achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula is not feasible without the improvement of North Korean human rights, ▲Strategies for enhancing cooperation among relevant nations and civil societies ▲Proposals for fostering solidarity with value-sharing nations using minilateralism.
7. Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Oh Youngju, in her closing remarks, called for multifaceted efforts to address human rights issues in North Korea, emphasizing the importance of solidarity among governments, international organizations, and civil society as well as inclusion of various actors, including youth and women.
8. In addition, she said that the ROK Government opposes the forced repatriation of North Korean defectors under any circumstances and continuously requests the cooperation of the relevant countries not to repatriate the North Korean defectors against their free will and to allow them to reach safely and swiftly where they desire to seek asylum.
9. The Forum was attended by a wide range of domestic and international audiences, including civil society organizations, students, and the diplomatic corps in Korea.
10. The Forum provided a significant opportunity to widely reaffirm the ROK Government’s commitment to the improvement of North Korean human rights both domestically and internationally. It also contributed to raising awareness about North Korean human rights.