Seoul maintains a “firm” stance on the North Korean human rights issue, but needs “more preparation” before including it on the agenda of ongoing inter-Korean meetings, South Korea’s top diplomat said on Wednesday.
The Moon administration will “continue to endeavor” to advance the issue in accordance with the country’s North Korean human rights law, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha said.
“The purpose of the human rights law is to put efforts into developing inter-Korean relations and establishing peace in parallel with the improvement of the North Korean human rights situation,” Kang said at a regular news conference in Seoul.
When asked how Seoul will handle the issue in the process of inter-Korean dialogue, the foreign minister said South Korea has a “firm and basic stance” on the DPRK human rights issue.
The foreign minister said the South has been working at the United Nations to promote “the improvement of the poor human rights situation in the North in cooperation with an international community.”
Kang, however, expressed a more reserved position on whether the two Koreas could discuss human rights issue ongoing inter-Korean meetings.
“The agenda that both sides have agreed to is being discussed to promote the dialogue,” she said. “I believe more preparation is needed at the government-level with regard to the matter of including it in the agenda of the current South-North dialogue.”
A third inter-Korean summit is slated to be held in late April, though Seoul and Pyongyang are yet to reach a deal on the agenda.
Kang reiterated that the two Koreas shared the view of deciding the agenda “in a flexible manner” so that South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can have “heart-to-heart and comprehensive dialogue.”
The South Korean foreign minister said the two Koreas plan to discuss issues related to denuclearizing the peninsula and improving DPRK-ROK relations.
“There are big themes like these, but we’ve agreed to prepare to proceed the open-minded dialogue without being bound by the agenda,” Kang said. “So, it’s hard to say what will be included or not.”
Kang’s comments came in response to a commentary by North Korean state media denouncing the Moon administration’s support for a March resolution by the UN condemning Pyongyang’s record on human rights.
The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday said the Moon administration had “unhesitatingly engrossed in dishonest acts behind the scenes of dialogue.”
KCNA criticized the resolution as “a product of the crimes and plot-breeding to tarnish the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK,” urging the Moon administration to “exercise special deliberation and behave with discretion.”
Warning Seoul that “denying the dignity and the system of the counterpart” might impede ongoing inter-Korean rapprochement, an English-language version of the article accused South Korea of a “double-dealing attitude.”
The North warned Seoul that their “ludicrous statements” on the human rights issue were “tantamount to an act of throwing a stone to the thin ice-like north-south relations.”
“This is an open political provocation to the DPRK and an intolerable act of chilling the atmosphere for dialogue.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)
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