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(LEAD) Center aimed at documenting N.K. human rights abuses begins operation

All News 15:13 September 28, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS English name of center due to official correction in paras 2; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- A new organization tasked with investigating and documenting North Korea's human rights abuses began operations on Wednesday to implement South Korea's law aimed at improving the rights of people living in the reclusive country.

Seoul's unification ministry said it held a ceremony to mark the opening of the Center for North Korean Human Rights Records, attended by Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo and others including Suh Doo-hyun, the head of the center.

Under the law which took effect on Sept. 4, South Korea can create archives and establish a foundation to support relevant civic groups to shed light on Pyongyang's dismal human rights situation.

The ministry said that the main task of the center is to investigate and compile cases of North Koreans' human rights abuses and handle rights issues of prisoners of war held in the North, separated families and abductees.

"We expect the center to help substantially improve North Korea's human rights situation by systemically releasing credible records of the North's abuses," Suh said in a statement.

North Korea has long been labeled one of the worst human rights violators in the world. 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.

Since taking office in late 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is believed to have ordered the execution of more than 100 party, military and government officials in a bid to strengthen control over the country through a reign of terror.

Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo (L) attends a ceremony to mark the opening of the Center for North Korean Human Rights Records on Sept. 28, 2016, in Seoul. The new organization will investigate and document North Korea's human rights abuses in accordance with South Korea's law on Pyongyang's rights situation which went into effect on Sept. 4. (Yonhap).


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