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(LEAD) S. Korean senior diplomat, U.N. special rapporteur discuss N.K. human rights

All Headlines 16:51 December 11, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS remarks by U.N. special rapporteur at forum in last 6 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- The United Nations special rapporteur on North Korean human rights and a senior South Korean diplomat discussed ways to tighten cooperation on addressing the reclusive country's dire human rights situation Monday.

During their meeting in Seoul, Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun told Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana that South Korea will cooperate with the U.N. official, commending him for his efforts to muster international cooperation in the North Korean human rights front, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Cho also said the South Korean government pays attention to the special rapporteur's efforts to strike a balance between engagement and pressure in his approach toward the North Korean human rights issue, the ministry also said. The vice foreign minister pledged the South Korean government's cooperation with Quintana.

The special rapporteur stressed the importance of his latest visit to South Korea, which comes amid unusual difficulties in fact-finding on the North Korean human rights issue and shared the view that the acute tension on the Korean Peninsula warrants a balanced approach on the concerned issue, according to the ministry.

He also lauded the South Korean government's decision to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea's vulnerable people.

Quintana is visiting Seoul for a four-day stay till Thursday. It is his third visit to South Korea since taking office in August 2016.

The official is scheduled to meet with government officials and interview North Korean defectors.

At a forum held in Seoul, Quintana expressed regret over a possible invasion of privacy of a North Korean solider who crossed the border to defect last month, citing the way South Korean authorities handled the case.

The solider, a man in his 20s identified only by his surname, Oh, underwent several surgeries here after being shot five or six times by North Korean border guards as he crossed the border.

Details about his physical condition were revealed to the media, including the fact that dozens of fully grown parasitic worms were found in his ruptured small intestine. A progressive party lawmaker publicly condemned surgeon Lee Cook-jong for violating the human rights of the patient.

Quintana noted North Korea's shooting and possible persecution of the soldier.

"But at the same time, I should denounce the level of invasion of the solder's privacy by horrendously showing the details of the solder's surgery and his physical conditions, which is not tolerable from the human rights perspective," the special rapporteur told the forum on North Korean human rights.

"One of the most important elements of my job is ... to listen objectively to all voices and to reflect them when necessary," he added.

(LEAD) S. Korean senior diplomat, U.N. special rapporteur discuss N.K. human rights - 1

pbr@yna.co.kr
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