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(LEAD) S. Korea's new envoy for N.K. rights vows efforts for 'human security'

All News 16:43 July 28, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with meeting with unification minister in last 3 paras)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, July 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new envoy for North Korean human rights emphasized her commitment Thursday to enhancing "human security" in the reclusive country, as she received her appointment certificate from Foreign Minister Park Jin.

Lee Shin-wha, political science professor at Korea University, filled the position that had been vacant for years since the inaugural ambassador, Lee Jung-hoon, left office in September 2017.

Her appointment came as the South has apparently shifted to a more proactive stance in handling the North Korean human rights issue under the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration in a policy shift from the preceding liberal Moon Jae-in administration.

"Mentioning the human rights issue may be a sensitive issue for the North Korean regime, but for its people, the issue is a matter of life or death," she said in a meeting with reporters. "I believe (my role) is to call on the North Korean regime to (ensure) not regime security but human security."

Lee Shin-wha, South Korea's new envoy for North Korean human rights, talks with Foreign Minister Park Jin at the foreign ministry in Seoul on July 28, 2022. (Yonhap)

Lee Shin-wha, South Korea's new envoy for North Korean human rights, talks with Foreign Minister Park Jin at the foreign ministry in Seoul on July 28, 2022. (Yonhap)

The ambassador also commented on the hot-button issue of the forced repatriation of two North Korean fishermen in 2019.

"Forcibly repatriating them without due procedures is a breach of both international and domestic laws," she said." This issue should be viewed from the perspective of the international principle of non-refoulement and the enforcement of the (domestic) North Korean human rights act."

She also pointed out, "A photo is worth a hundred or a thousand words," in an apparent reference to the photo unveiled by Seoul's unification ministry of the North Korean fishermen being dragged into the North against their will.

Later in the day, Unification Minister Kwon Young-se met with Lee and asked her to play a constructive role in improving the human rights conditions for North Koreans, according to his office.

Lee vowed efforts for broader consensus in the international community on the North Korean human rights issue in cooperation with Elizabeth Salmon, the new U.N. special rapporteur for the matter, and a U.S. special envoy to be named down the road, it added.

Lee's position was created in 2016 following the enactment of the North Korean Human Rights Act.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
(END)

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