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S. Korea to start full-fledged probe into N.K. human rights abuses next week

All Headlines 14:57 January 05, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to launch a full-fledged investigation into North Korea's human rights abuses starting next week by holding one-on-one interviews with incoming defectors, a government official said Thursday.

A new agency tasked with documenting North Korea's human rights plans to conduct interviews with all North Korean defectors who will enter two resettlement education facilities in January, from Monday until Jan. 16, according to the official.

Seoul launched the Center for North Korean Human Rights Records in late September to investigate and collect data on Pyongyang's human rights violations in accordance with a new law aimed at improving Pyongyang's dismal treatment of its people.

"The results of the probe will be used as basic data in crafting the government's relevant policy and evidence for the future that can be used to hold violators responsible for their crimes," said the official, asking not to be named.

The official said that the center plans to make mug shots of human rights perpetrators in cooperation with the country's policy agency, based on accounts from defectors. But it will not make public a list of violators' names or their photos, he added.

The questionnaire to be used in the interviews consists of about 140 questions covering defectors' direct or indirect experience with human rights violations including public executions, forced repatriation and life in prison camps.

Prior to the planned interviews, the agency conducted a pilot survey on 116 North Korean defectors at the Hanawon facility in Anseong, south of Seoul, in December.

The agency compiled 130 specific cases of rights abuses through the preliminary probe, he said.

"The fact that we will investigate and document human rights violations will serve as pressure on North Korea," the official said. "We plan to publish an annual report on North Korea's rights abuses based on the probe."

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.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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