An international coalition has been launched to raise awareness about the North Korean human rights bill that has been stalled in the South Korean parliament for a decade now, a U.S.-based human rights group said Wednesday.
If signed into law, the bill would improve the human rights situation in the North by promoting activities such as supporting defector organizations in the South and educating South Koreans on these issues in the North, Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation said in a press conference at the Korea Press Center in Seoul.
North Korea is accused of serious human rights abuses, ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in concentration camps, to torture and public executions. Pyongyang flatly denies the accusations as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.
“Consider that there is already a North Korean human rights act in Japan, in the United States. Canada has a North Korean human rights day. The United Nations has an entire commission devoted to North Korean human rights, and South Korea has nothing,” Halvorssen said, criticizing South Korean lawmakers who have been “invisible in this fight.”
Since the first draft bill to improve North Korea’s human rights situation was filed with the National Assembly in 2005, no major progress has been made.
The U.S. and Japan, meanwhile, adopted legislation on North Korea’s human rights situation in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
“The South Korean government, every year, provides $1.7 billion of aids to foreign countries,” said Garry Kasparov, the chairman of HRF and leader of the International Coalition, pointing out that “not a single dime has been given to the North Korean society.”
He also criticized South Korean conglomerates that provide huge support to foreign countries while being ignorant of the defectors in the South.
People from many fields, including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and professor at Stanford University Larry Diamond, have joined the coalition to take part in the action.
The HRF was established in 2005 and is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving human rights all over the world.
Halvorssen has joined a South Korean activist group in sending balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets to the North in 2013 and 2015. (Yonhap)