South Korean Rights Watchdog Presses Democratic Party to Appoint Board Members for North Korean Human Rights Foundation

SEOUL - The National Human Rights Commission of Korea called on Monday for the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) to swiftly designate board members, a step seen as crucial for launching a foundation focused on improving human rights conditions in North Korea.

According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, the foundation's establishment is mandated by the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2016. The act specifies that the board of directors should comprise two members from the Ministry of Unification and five members each from the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and the DP. The watchdog said the DP has not yet recommended its five board members, despite requests from the Ministry of Unification dating back to 2016. On the other hand, the PPP recommended its five officials last year.

The commission emphasized the importance of the foundation for the implementation of the North Korean Human Rights Act, stating that without the board in place, the act becomes "nullified and nominal." The statement also stressed that state institutions have an obligation to cooperate to ensure the act's implementation.

The DP has responded by saying it is "internally discussing" the issue, as per the rights commission. The commission has now specifically urged the floor leader of the DP to expedite the recommendations and called on the national assembly speaker to continuously press the party to comply.

North Korea's human rights situation has been under the international spotlight since a 2014 report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry. The report concluded that North Korean leaders were responsible for "widespread, systematic and gross" violations of human rights, including political imprisonment, torture, and public executions. However, many in South Korea have hesitated to address the North's human rights record, concerned it could jeopardize inter-Korean relations.

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