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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 82 (November 26, 2009)

All Headlines 10:50 November 26, 2009

*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

U.N. Urges North Korea to Respect 'All Human Rights'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The United Nations adopted a resolution on Nov. 20 (New York time), condemning North Korea for its "systemic, widespread, and grave violations" of human rights, as the 192-member organization prepared to conduct a comprehensive review of the secretive communist state's human rights condition in a special session next month.

The resolution, co-sponsored by 53 nations and approved by a special committee of the U.N. General Assembly, also strongly urges Pyongyang to "respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The General Assembly "expresses its very serious concern at the persistence of continuing reports of systemic, widespread, and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea)," according to the text of the resolution released by South Korea's foreign ministry.

The document said that torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading methods of punishment are prevalent in North Korea, and expressed concern over public executions and extrajudicial and arbitrary detention.

South Korea said that it co-sponsored the resolution and also voted for it. The decision is based on the government's position that "the universal value of human rights should be handled separately from other issues," the foreign ministry said in a press release.

The international community has been pressuring North Korea to improve its human rights conditions, but little progress has been made so far. North Korean authorities have reacted sensitively to the international community's calls because it believes they are intended to undermine the Kim Jong-il regime's stability. Based on its collectivist ideology, the North has developed a unique "style" of human rights that are completely different from the Western concept, Pyongyang has said. North Korea has insisted human rights are fully guaranteed under its own system.

This year's resolution mostly struck a similar tone to those adopted in previous years.

Among the newly added articles was one urging U.N. member nations to comply with their obligations under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees, according to the ministry. Many North Korean refugees and asylum-seekers are expelled or returned to North Korea to face harsh punishment, the resolution said.

It also expressed concern at "continuing reports of violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of children, in particular the continued lack of access to basic economic, social and cultural rights for many children," in another new article.

The U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to adopt the resolution in a main session next month as it was approved by the 3rd Committee of the General Assembly on Nov. 20. The resolution, if adopted, would become the fifth to be published by the U.N. since 2005.

Although not legally binding, U.N. officials say, the resolution provides grounds for taking consistent measures to address North Korea's human rights shortcomings.

As expected, North Korea immediately dismissed the contents of the resolution as groundless. Pyongyang's deputy ambassador to the U.N., Pak Tok-hun, said the resolution was an attempt to "isolate and suffocate" his country.

The resolution will ratchet up pressure on the North ahead of the U.N. Human Rights Council's assessment of North Korea's general human rights situation under a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session on Dec. 7.

The panel introduced the UPR system last year with the aim of providing member nations with constructive advice on how to improve their human rights conditions. All U.N. member states are subject to the UPR.

A South Korean foreign ministry official said North Korea is expected to dispatch a delegation to the upcoming UPR session in Geneva.

"In the hearing-style session, North Korean representatives will give opening remarks and receive questions from other nations on the North Korean human rights condition," the official said, asking not to be named.

The list of North Korean delegates remains unknown, he added.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed the nomination of Robert King, a former congressional aide, as President Barack Obama's special envoy for North Korean human rights. King replaces Jay Lefkowitz, who quit in January after serving for four years.

Later that day, a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said his country completely dismisses the U.N. resolution.

The resolution is nothing but a "stereotype political plot" that creates hostility against the North every year, the unidentified spokesman was quoted as saying by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

"As we always did (in the past), we squarely reject the 'resolution' that the U.S. and its followers manipulated to harm our ideology and system under the pretext of protecting human rights," the spokesman said.

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