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Date : December 17, 2019
Stand Up for Human Rights Don’t Disengage from Human Rights in North Korea
   https://www.hrw.org/asia/south-korea [1864]
   https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/12/16/south-korea-stand-human-rights [1674]

For Immediate Release

South Korea: Stand Up for Human Rights
Don’t Disengage from Human Rights in North Korea

(Seoul, December 17, 2019) – The South Korean government should stop disengaging from ongoing human rights abuses by North Korea, a coalition of human rights and other groups said on December 16, 2019 in a joint open letter to South Korean president Moon Jae-in.

The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) and 76 nongovernmental groups, coalitions, and individuals from 22 countries, representing over 300 groups and individuals, said South Korea’s recent decisions betray past efforts to push for human rights improvements for the North Korean people.

“President Moon Jae-in and his government are ignoring North Korea’s grave human rights abuses in a misguided effort to mollify Kim Jong Un and improve relations with Pyongyang, but by doing so, they betray the long-suffering people of North Korea,” said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch. “President Moon should reevaluate this disturbing policy and reverse course before it’s too late.”

In November, South Korea decided to end its past co-sponsorship of an annual resolution in the United Nations General Assembly condemning North Korea’s rights record. The South Korean government also deported two North Korean fishermen accused of killing 16 fellow crew members in the East Sea to face murder charges in North Korea. The deportation of criminal suspects from South Korea to North Korea is an unprecedented and shocking departure from previous practice, the coalition said. Serious concerns have been raised that the two men could face torture in detention, followed by the lack of a free and fair trial.

“President Moon Jae-in’s government is signaling to Pyongyang that South Korea’s priority is engagement in inter-Korean dialogue without any demands in return, even at the cost of overlooking severe crimes,” said Eun-Kyoung Kwon, secretary general at ICNK. “It is crucial that the South Korean government shows that it remains committed to the basic principles of protection of those most at risk in North Korea, and to do it needs to correct its current stance.” 

The coalition urged President Moon to rejoin the resolution as a co-sponsor when member states vote on it at the General Assembly’s plenary session on December 18.

“If President Moon Jae-in really wants peace on the Korean peninsula, he cannot ignore the appalling human rights crisis in North Korea,” said Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader at nongovernmental organization CSW. “Peace can only be achieved with justice, with an end to impunity, and with the basic rights and dignity of the people of North Korea respected and protected. It is essential to place discussion of human rights at the heart of engagement with North Korea and the human rights crisis in North Korea regularly on the agenda of the UN Security Council.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on South Korea, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Bangkok, for Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +66-85-060-8406 (mobile); or robertp@hrw.org. Twitter: @Reaproy
In Seoul, for ICNK, Eun-Kyoung Kwon (Korean, English): +82-10-4508-8815; or kekyoung@gmail.com
In London, for CSW, Ben Rogers (English): +44-782-332-96-64; or benrogers@csw.org.uk

Members and supporters of the Coalition include:

Advocates International Global Council
Asia Justice and Rights
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
Asian Human Rights & Humanity Association of Japan
Burma Partnership (Thailand)
Christian Lawyers Association for Paraguay
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
COMJAN (Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea) (Japan)
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (USA)
Conectas (Brazil)
Council for Human Rights in North Korea (Canada)
David Hawk, Visiting Scholar, Columbia University, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, and author of Hidden Gulag
Free North Korea Radio (ROK) Freedom House (USA)
Han Voice (Canada)
HH Katacombs (ROK)
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Without Frontiers (Belgium)
Inter-American Federation of Christian Lawyers
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Japanese Lawyers Association for Abduction and Other Human Rights Issues in North Korea Jubilee Campaign (USA)
Justice for North Korea (ROK)
Ken Kato, Director, Human Rights in Asia (Japan)
Kontras (Indonesia)
Liberty in North Korea - LiNK (USA)
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (Japan)
Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (ROK)
NK Intellectual Solidarity (ROK)
NK Watch (ROK)
No Fence (Japan)
North Korea Freedom Coalition
Odhikar (Bangladesh)
Open North Korea (ROK)
People In Need (Czech Republic)
PSALT NK (Prayer Service Action Love Truth for North Korea)
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (USA)
SARAM - Für Menschen in Nordkorea (Germany)
Students Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (ROK)
Suzanne Scholte, Seoul Peace Prize Recipient & Defence Forum Foundation (USA)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (USA)
The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea (Japan)
Tomoharu Ebihara
Tomoyuki Kawazoe, Representative, Kanagawa Association for The Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea / Member, Reporters Without Borders
World Without Genocide (USA)
Young Defectors' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (ROK) Yuki Akimoto, Burmainfo (Japan)

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