A South Korean parliamentary committee on Friday passed a bill on improving North Korea's dismal human rights conditions, taking a step closer to endorsing the bill for the first time in more than a decade.

The parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and unification passed the bill, which was subsequently sent to the judiciary committee.

The judiciary committee is scheduled to deliberate the bill before sending it to the plenary session of the National Assembly for full approval.

Still, it remains unclear when the parliament could hold a plenary session due to a marathon filibuster by opposition lawmakers in protest of a separate anti-terrorism bill.

The human rights bill calls for efforts to improve the North's human rights situation and set up a center tasked with investigating the North's human rights situation and relevant archives.

The bill's passage through the parliamentary committee has raised expectations that its final passage could finally come after 11 years of partisan bickering over it.

Similar bills were scrapped in recent years as liberal lawmakers have shied away from the issue of the North's human rights out of concerns that it could harm inter-Korean relations.

North Korea has long been accused of human rights abuses, ranging from holding political prisoners in concentration camps to torture and carrying out public executions.

Still, the North has condemned the accusations as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

Source: Yonhap news Agency