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South Korea Plans To Convene UNSC Meeting On North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses

South Korea, North Korea, UNSC meeting
North Korean people work on a military fence near their guard post at the inter-Korean border in this picture taken from the observation deck near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Seoul’s UN envoy said that South Korea plans to convene a public United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on human rights abuses in North Korea.

This is a move that is likely to anger Pyongyang and face opposition from Russia and China.

South Korea hopes UN allies will support the meeting

The 15-member council last met on the issue in August 2023 which was its first public discussion since 2017. China opposed it then saying the council should not discuss human rights issues. However, it did not try to block the meeting due to a lack of support.

The UNSC is charged with maintaining international peace and security. China and Russia argue the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is the appropriate venue for discussions on human rights.

South Korea’s UN Ambassador, Joonkook Hwang, said he hoped there would be significant support among council members to hold a meeting.

He noted the issue of human rights in North Korea is formally on the Security Council’s agenda.

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“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) human rights and humanitarian situation is closely interlinked with North Korea’s aggressive WMD nuclear development.”

The North Korean, Russian, and Chinese UN missions in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

North Korea rejects accusations of human rights abuses

North Korea has rejected accusations of abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation. It has been under UN sanctions over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs since 2006. However, there are aid exemptions.

The Security Council held annual public meetings on human rights abuses in North Korea between 2014 and 2017. The council held annual formal meetings behind closed doors on the issue between 2020-2022.

A UN report on North Korean human rights in 2014 concluded that North Korean security chiefs – and possibly leader Kim Jong-Un himself – should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities. The United States sanctioned Kim in 2016 for human rights abuses.

With inputs from Reuters