South Korea plans to convene UN meeting on North Korea rights abuses

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

SEOUL: South Korea plans to convene in mid-June a public United Nations Security Council meeting on human rights abuses in North Korea, Seoul's UN envoy said on June 3 (Monday), a move that is likely to anger Pyongyang and face opposition from Russia and China.

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

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

South Korea's UN Ambassador Hwang Joon-kook said he hoped there would be significant support among council members to hold a meeting, noting that the issue of human rights in North Korea – whose formal name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) – is formally on the Security Council's agenda.

“The DPRK human rights and humanitarian situation is closely interlinked with North Korea’s aggressive WMD (weapons of mass destruction) nuclear development,” he told reporters, as South Korea assumed the Security Council presidency for June.

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

North Korea has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation. Since 2006, it has been under UN sanctions over its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes, but there are aid exemptions.

Between 2014 and 2017, the Security Council held annual public meetings on human rights abuses in North Korea.

The council held annual formal meetings behind closed doors on the issue between 2020-2022.

A landmark 2014 UN report on North Korean human rights 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 US sanctioned Kim in 2016 for human rights abuses. - Reuters

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