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(2nd LD) Yoon vows not to give single won to N. Korea if it continues nuclear pursuit

All News 16:15 March 28, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with fresh remarks by Yoon; CHANGES headline)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, March 28 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday that not a single won should be given to North Korea as long as it continues to develop nuclear weapons, according to his spokesperson.

Yoon made the remark during a Cabinet meeting after being briefed by Unification Minister Kwon Young-se on the government's first public release of a North Korean human rights report this Friday.

"Disclosing the reality of North Korea's human rights situation is very important to national security as well, because it shows where the legitimacy of a state can be found," he was quoted as saying by Lee Do-woon during a press briefing.

"From now on, the unification ministry should stop giving away to North Korea and make it clear that as long as North Korea pursues nuclear development, we cannot give them a single won," he said, apparently referring to economic aid under past administrations.

Yoon's remark came as North Korea has intensified its weapons testing in recent weeks in protest of expanded military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

Hours before the Cabinet meeting, North Korean state media released photos of what appeared to be miniaturized nuclear warheads and said leader Kim Jong-un had called for boosting the production of weapons-grade nuclear material to expand the country's arsenal.

Yoon stressed that investigating the reality of North Korea's human rights, political, economic and social situation, and making it known to the world is the "key road map" for national security and inter-Korean reunification, Lee said.

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on March 28, 2023. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on March 28, 2023. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Under the North Korean Human Rights Act passed in 2016, the government has published an annual report on North Korea's human rights situation without disclosing it to the public.

The law also calls for the establishment of a North Korean human rights foundation, but its launch has been delayed for years as the main opposition Democratic Party has refused to recommend its share of members for the foundation's board.

"Seven years have passed since the North Korean Human Rights Act was enacted, but the North Korean human rights foundation has still not been launched, and the North Korean human rights report is only now being published," Yoon said in opening remarks broadcast live on television.

"The North Korean Human Rights Act must be implemented in practice even now," he added. "The reality of the appalling human rights violations against the North Korean people must be fully revealed to the international community."

Yoon said he hopes to see the North's human rights conditions widely publicized during the Summit for Democracy starting Wednesday and during the ongoing regular session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

He also called on each government ministry, including the unification and education ministries, to use the publication of the North Korean human rights report to inform people at home and abroad of the North's human rights situation.

The Cabinet meeting was held to discuss next year's government budget, among other items.

Yoon said the government will spend boldly to fulfill its job while pursuing strong fiscal reforms to ensure not a single penny of taxpayers' money goes to waste.

He especially called for preventing "leaks" in the form of subsidies for organizations that lack transparency or "populist distributions of cash."

On South Korea's campaign to host the 2030 World Expo in the port city of Busan, Yoon noted that an inspection team of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), an intergovernmental body in charge of overseeing the Expo, is due to visit the country next week, and urged the Cabinet members to do their best to win the bid.

Yoon also recalled his instructions the previous day to strengthen policy coordination between the government and the ruling People Power Party, saying the public's opinion should be reflected in all stages of the policymaking process.

"All policies should be looked at from the perspective of the young people of the MZ generation," he was quoted as saying, referring to millennials and Gen Z. "The MZ generation lead the public opinion of not only that generation but of all generations."

Yoon has repeatedly called for paying close attention to the public's wishes after his administration's initial proposal to raise the legal cap on weekly work hours from 52 hours to 69 faced backlash, especially from young generations.


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