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N.K. defectors rebuke Pyongyang's nukes, rights violations

All News 15:02 April 29, 2016

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- Around 100 North Korean defectors in South Korea and foreign nations held their first gathering on Friday in Seoul, condemning the North's grave human rights violations and nuclear weapons program.

The participants said that only when North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and the two Koreas move to achieve peaceful unification can the division on the Korean Peninsula come to an end.

"We will do our best to make North Korea a country where individuals' dignity is respected and liberty is guaranteed for all people," the statement showed.

As of end-March, the number of North Koreans who defected to the South came in at more than 29,000, with some 1,280 people arriving in the South last year.

Speculation is high that the North will carry out another nuclear test and launch a mid- and long-range missile ahead of its ruling party's key congress slated for next Friday.

Oh Joon, the South Korean ambassador to the United Nations, highlighted the role of North Korean defectors in bringing the North's human rights violations to the forefront.

"North Korean defectors' courage to speak about the North's human rights records helped the world body tackle the issue," the envoy said in his video-based congratulatory message.

North Korea has long been regarded as one of the worst human rights violators. Pyongyang has bristled at such criticism, calling it a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

The North does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps and keeps tight control over outside information.

In December 2015, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution for the second consecutive year that calls for referring the North to the International Criminal Court for human rights violations.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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