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UN Rights Agency's S. Korean Office to Open June 23

FILE - Defectors from North Korea cover their faces with placards as a safety precaution for their relatives still living in the North, during a protest in Seoul, South Korea, against human rights abuses in North Korea, Jan. 26, 2015.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights will open a field office in South Korea next week to monitor human rights in North Korea, a source familiar with the subject said Thursday.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, told the VOA Korean service that the field office would open June 23 in Seoul. The office will be located in Seoul Global Center, a multistory building in the center of the city. It will be staffed by one manager and several assistants, the source said.

The U.N. move follows a recommendation by the Commission of Inquiry, a U.N. panel tasked with probing human rights in the North. In a report released in February 2014, the panel recommended a series of actions, including the establishment of the field office, to improve human rights conditions in the communist country.

In its Facebook setup for the field office, the U.N. office said the office “will be doing a lot of work on monitoring and documentation of the human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).”

The United States is pleased with the move. “We welcome the upcoming establishment of the OHCHR field-based structure in Seoul,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The North strongly protested the office. This week, a North Korean representative to a U.N. Human Rights Council session in Geneva was critical of the plan.

“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.

In March, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the North’s human rights conditions. The resolution calls for OHCHR to submit a report on the field office to the council early next year.

Yeon Cheol Lee contributed to this report from Washington.

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