The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Korea, chaired by Mr. Ahn Kyong-Whan, announced "the Stance of the NHRC on North Korean Human Rights Issues" on 11 December 2006, which contains, among others, (i) the background of the announcement, (ii) the basis and scope of the announcement and (iii) recommendations concerning the basic approach and policies towards North Korean human rights issues. The outline of the press release is as follows.
Since 2003, the NHRC has conducted research and listened to experts' views on the human rights situation in North Korea. In accordance with the resolution of the Plenary Committee in December 2005, it established the Special Committee on North Korean Human Rights Issues, composed of five commissioners and chaired by Ms. Young-Ae Choi (a standing commissioner). The outcome of the examinations by the Special Committee was deliberated upon, adopted and announced by the Plenary Committee this time.
Within the framework of "North Korean human rights issues", the NHRC addresses not only the human rights of the North Korean population living in the territory of North Korea but also those of the people who have left the territory, including North Korean refugees living in other countries or being settled in South Korea. The concept also includes human rights issues occurring in the context of inter-Korean humanitarian cases, such as separated families, South Koreans abducted by the North and South Korean POWs (prisoners of war) captured by the North.
The NHRC also confirms that North Korean human rights issues should be addressed in a peaceful and systematic manner, on the basis of correct understanding of North Korean society and human rights as well as sober recognition of the realities in the Korean Peninsula.
Concerning the jurisdiction of the NHRC, Article 3 of the South Korean Constitution provides that the territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean Peninsula and its adjacent islands. Nevertheless, the NHRC concludes that human rights violations committed in North Korea, where the South Korean government can hardly exercise effective jurisdiction, cannot be included within the scope of its investigative activities in the light of Articles 4 and 30 of the National Human Rights Commission Act. On the other hand, when it comes to individual human rights cases concerning South Korean POWs, South Koreans abducted by the North, separated family members and North Korean refugees living in South Korea, the NHRC finds it possible to deal with them since South Korean citizens are directly affected.
In order to improve the human rights situation in North Korea, the NHRC recommends an approach based on the following principles:
On the basis of these principles, the NHRC presents the following policy directions.
The NHRC also expresses its commitment to continue to be involved in a broad range of activities to improve the human rights situation in North Korea, such as making recommendations and expressing its views concerning government policies, strengthening cooperation with international human rights organizations as well as NGOs in and outside the country and actively conducting fact-finding surveys and policy research on humanitarian cases.
Source: The website of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea [Korean]