A North Korea human rights bill, discussed for 11 years in the South Korean National Assembly but never passed, may finally be about to become law.
Moon Jae-in, chief of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), on Wednesday said that his party’s differences with the ruling Saenuri Party over the bill are slight and could be bridged within a day.
NPAD lawmaker Shim Jae-kwon’s office on Tuesday distributed a document showing the agreements and disagreements between two parties.
The main discordances at the time were anti-DPRK leaflet launches and the establishment of a foundation dedicated to human rights dialogue and the improvement of the North’s human rights situation.
An agreement has since been reached on the foundation’s establishment, adding humanitarian aid to its role in addition to human rights issues, as the NPAD requested. The opposition party had worried that the foundation might be abused to fund civil organizations launching anti-DPRK leaflets.
The leaflet launches are still under discussion, even though the human rights bill would not prohibit them. The NPAD has argued for banning the leaflet launches while Saenuri has defended them, citing freedom of speech.
“Currently there’s no legal regulation regarding leaflet launches. The suggestion from Saenuri is adopting a resolution on it, which would be less binding as freedom of speech is engraved in the Constitution,” Shin Deok-soon, secretary of Saenuri Party lawmaker Shim Yoon-joe, told NK News.
Moon said that launching the leaflets provokes North Korea and threatens the inter-Korean relationship.
“Improvement of North Korean human rights should be helpful for the development of inter-Korean relations and peace of the Korean Peninsula, as well as practically helpful for North Koreans’ human rights,” he said.
Instead of prohibiting leaflets through the human rights law, NPAD is trying to revise the current Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act.
The Ministry of Unification (MoU) has maintained the position that launching leaflets is covered under the Constitution, but could be prohibited if it threatens the lives and safety of residents near the border.
Another discordance concerns which ministry should govern the North Korean human rights archive. Saenuri has argued that the archive should be under the Ministry of Justice, while the NPAD has insisted on the MoU.
This indicates a different perspective on human rights issue: Saenuri considers that North Korean human rights violations should be punished in the future, while NPAD regards it as an issue to be resolved through inter-Korean dialogue.
The leadership of the two parties will discuss the matter further before sending the final agreement to the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.
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