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U.N. expert on N. Korea's human rights issues to visit Japan next week

All News 09:39 November 29, 2019

SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- A U.N. special rapporteur on North Korea's human rights situation will visit Japan next week to discuss ways to improve the reclusive country's human rights conditions, the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner has said.

Tomas Ojea Quintana will visit Japan from Monday to Wednesday to meet government officials, members of the parliament and families of victims who were abducted to North Korea, according to the U.N. office Thursday.

The abduction issue has been one of the key hurdles for diplomatic normalization between North Korea and Japan for decades.

Japan says it has confirmed the abductions of 17 Japanese citizens by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. But the North claims it kidnapped 13, among which five were returned and the others are dead.

Quintana will also meet with ethnic Koreans in Japan who went to the North as part of a resettlement program between the 1950s and 1984, and later returned to Japan.

"It is very important for me to meet with relevant actors in Japan and to discuss what steps can be taken to improve the human rights situation in North Korea, particularly in the context of ongoing diplomatic talks," the special rapporteur was quoted as saying in a release.

Quintana took up the post as the special rapporteur on North Korea in 2016, but the North has not approved his multiple requests to visit the country. The upcoming trip will mark his second visit to Japan since the first one in November 2016.

North Korea has long been labeled one of the world's worst human rights violators. The regime does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps and keeps tight control over outside information.

Quintana will report his findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in March next year.

In this file photo, taken June 21, 2019, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, speaks during a news conference in Seoul. (Yonhap)


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