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(LEAD) Pyongyang slams human rights bill, anti-terrorism legislation

All News 21:35 March 04, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS details in last 2 paras)

SEOUL, March 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Friday warned that the passage of the bill on human rights in its country by South Korea's parliament is a 'grave provocation' and constitutes a huge crime against it.

On Wednesday, South Korea's National Assembly approved the bill on North Korean human rights, hours before the U.N. Security Council unanimously okayed its toughest-ever sanctions against Pyongyang in response to the communist country's recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

The North also slammed the South's anti-terror bills.

"We already warned that the human rights bill and anti-terror bills are counted as the declaration of war against us, and will sternly deal with it," a spokesperson for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which is in charge of daily inter-Korean affairs, told the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the country's official news outlet.

Since the first draft was filed with the National Assembly in 2005, no major progress has been made for the North Korean human rights bill.

Similar bills were scrapped during previous parliaments, as liberal lawmakers have shied away from the issue of the North's human rights out of concern that it could strain inter-Korean relations.

The bill calls for a concerted effort to improve the North's human rights situation, such as setting up a foundation tasked with collecting information about the North's human rights situation and maintaining relevant archives.

The bill also supports defector organizations in the South that float anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the inter-Korean border in plastic balloons, a campaign that is strongly opposed by Pyongyang.

Pyongyang is accused of committing various serious human rights abuses, ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in concentration camps to torture and public executions. The country, however, flatly denies the accusations as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

The U.S. and Japan, meanwhile, adopted legislation on North Korea's human rights situation in 2003 and 2006, respectively.

The parliament also passed a long-stalled anti-terrorism bill after opposition lawmakers temporarily walked out of the National Assembly chamber in protest.

Meanwhile, Seoul's unification ministry retorted Pyongyang's claim, saying that the North Korean human rights bill is a show of the people and the government's will to improve human rights conditions in the North and is an institutional foundation for the unification of the divided two Koreas.

"The North should seek to improve its human rights situation, rather than belittling our efforts for the improvement of human rights there," the unification ministry said.


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