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Rival parties to vote on N. Korea human rights bill

All News 21:58 January 23, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- The rival parties said Saturday they have agreed to vote next week on a bill meant to help improve North Korea's dismal human rights record.

The agreement was reached in a meeting between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Minjoo Party.

The parties said the bill will be put to a vote in the plenary session of the National Assembly on Friday.

The bill calls for, among other things, efforts to raise international awareness of North Korea's human rights situation and to ensure that South Korea's humanitarian aid, if made, reaches its intended beneficiaries and is not diverted to other purposes.

There have been widespread allegations that the North diverts outside food aid to its elite and military.

It remains unclear whether the parliament will approve the bill. Still, it represents major progress in a country where divisions have run deep on how to deal with North Korea, which is accused of being one of the world's worst human rights abusers.

Similar bills were scrapped in recent years as liberal lawmakers have shied away from the issue of the North's human rights out of fear that it could strain inter-Korean relations.

North Korea has long been accused of human rights abuses, ranging from holding political prisoners in concentration camps to torture and carrying out public executions.

The North has denied any rights abuses, condemning the accusations as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime, and claiming it has the world's most advantageous human rights conditions and policies.

The planned vote comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea's nuclear test earlier this month.

In 2004, the United States passed legislation on North Korea's human rights.

Also next Friday, lawmakers are set to vote on a bill designed to revitalize businesses.


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