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S. Korea to set up foundation on N.K. human rights in early Sept.

All Headlines 15:08 August 30, 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to open a foundation tasked with doing research on North Korea's human rights record and support civic groups' efforts to shed light on the issue in early September, a government official said Tuesday.

The tentatively named North Korean Human Rights Foundation is expected to be set up with 42 staff members next month, as a new law aimed at improving North Korea's human rights situation is set to go into effect on Sunday, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

The date for the foundation's establishment has yet to be decided as the composition of the 12-member board is not finalized, it added.

A bill on the North's human rights was passed at the National Assembly, 11 years after similar bills were scrapped due to political bickering.

Under the law, South Korea plans to establish a center tasked with investigating and compiling the North's human rights abuses and the foundation to support relevant civic groups.

To what extent the foundation can support non-government organizations is one of the contentious points over the implementation of the law, experts said.

Article 3 of the law stipulates that North Koreans are defined as those who live in areas above the military demarcation line and put the basis of their living, including immediate family members, in such regions.

Strictly speaking, North Korean defectors living in foreign countries are not subject to the law, but civic groups said they should be also protected as they are facing high risk of being arrested and forcibly repatriated to Pyongyang.

Opposition lawmakers said that if Seoul gives support to civic groups' moves to help such defectors, it could effectively spur defections orchestrated by the government.

The government remains cautious about how to define North Koreans who are eligible to get support.

"It is a matter of requiring prudent judgment by taking various factors into account, including (diplomatic) relations with a foreign country," a ministry official said.

Asked about the possibility of supporting activists who are sending anti-North Korean leaflets across the border, he said that the foundation will decide on the details of how it will give support.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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