SEOUL, April 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will consider publishing a report on human rights situations in North Korea after securing more verifiable information and testimonies from North Korean defectors, a unification ministry official said Wednesday.
The government runs a center for North Korean human rights records under the ministry to accumulate information on human rights violations in the reclusive country based mostly on interviews with North Korean defectors.
The center was launched in 2016 in line with the North Korea Human Rights Act that went into effect months earlier. However, it has not published a report on its findings, raising speculation that it might be worried that such a report could negatively affect inter-Korean relations.
"I think we need some time. It is necessary to accumulate more data," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "A process is necessary to find a consistency (of testimonies) and verify their credibility."
The official said that testimonies of defectors sometimes provide a conflicting picture of human rights situations, which requires a verification process. He noted that a large portion of the defectors come from certain areas, which also raises questions about whether their experiences can represent the whole situation in the North.
The center has interviewed more than 3,000 North Korean defectors since its establishment. As of end-March this year, just 28 defectors have been surveyed amid a sharp decline in people defecting to the South amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
North Korea has long been accused of gross human rights violations, including torture, public executions and maintaining tens of thousands of political prisoners. Pyongyang has bristled at such criticism, calling it a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.
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