South and North Korea have exchanged words at a United Nations meeting over the establishment of a U.N. human rights field office in the South.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights plans to open a field office in Seoul as early as this month to monitor human rights in North Korea. The move follows a recommendation by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry tasked with probing human rights in the North.
Early last year, the panel released a damning report on the North’s human rights conditions and recommended a series of actions, including the establishment of the field office.
The exchange occurred at a United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva Monday.
South Korea’s Ambassador to the U.N. Choi Seokyoung said his country supports the establishment of the field office.
“The Republic of Korea stands ready to lend our full support to the activities of the field offices. In the same vein, as the host country, the Republic of Korea will support the field-based structure on DPRK human rights in successfully discharging its mandate,” the envoy said.
Japan also showed its support, deploring the human rights situation in the communist country.
“The human rights violations in the DPRK continues to be extremely grave, and the continued involvement of the international community is necessary. Japan welcomes that a field-based structure will soon be established in Seoul, based on the COI report and relevant Human Rights Council resolutions,” said Misako Kaji, Japan’s deputy permanent representative to the International Organizations in Geneva.
The North dismissed the U.N. move.
“We regard it as a political plot aimed at overthrowing the social system of the DPRK by fabricating and propagandizing the human rights issues of the DPRK,” said Kim Yong Ho, counselor at the North’s mission in Geneva.
Recently, Pyongyang launched an intense campaign to counter an international call for improvements in the country’s human rights. Early this year, Pyongyang dispatched its top diplomat to a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting to defend its human rights record.
Last December, the U.N. General Assembly adopted its toughest resolution against Pyongyang on its human rights record. The U.N. action calls for the Security Council to consider referring the North Korean human rights situation to the International Criminal Court.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.