Letter urges WomenCrossDMZ to consider COI recommendations

Kang Mi Jin  |  2015-05-21 17:42

Image: Unification Media Group

The WomenCrossDMZ [WCD] group, an organization comprising female peace activists including Gloria Steinem arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday for a march across the DMZ scheduled for Sunday, International Womens Day for Peace and Disarmament. The group hopes to bring international attention to the unresolved conflict gripping the Korean Peninsula.   

Ahead of the visit, ruling Saenuri Party Assemblyman Ha Tae Kyung; Heo Kang Il of the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea [CDNK]; Lee Kwang Baek, president of Unification Media Group [UMG]; and others gathered earlier in the week in Seoul to urge WCD to broach the human rights issues and engage with the North Korean leadership on these matters during the event. 

During a press interview on May 18th at Seouls National Assembly, Assemblyman Ha stated that he sent an open letter to Leymah Gbowee and Gloria Steinem, two of the organizations participants, calling on them to approach the North Korean authorities on the issue of political prison camps and human rights in accordance with the recommendations stipulated in the UN Commission of Inquiry [COI] on human rights in North Korea.   

I also included in the letter that North Korean Party members must address the issue of the barbaric and cruel public executions taking place in North Korea, especially in the recent case of Hyon Yong Chol, the defense chief of the Ministry of Peoples Armed Forces. In addition, if WCD comes to South Korea [as planned], I urged them to meet with representatives from North Korean human rights groups and defector organizations to discuss North Korean human rights issues, he explained.

The head of the Unification Media Group, Lee Kwang Baek, also spoke at the event, saying, "It would be a tremendous help for peace on the Korean Peninsula if [Steinem] appeals to resolve the nuclear and missile problems, which are obstacles to peace on the Korean Peninsula." He added, "Also, the essence of peace and human rights is life, and North Korea's public executions go against this very crux [of peace and human rights]. If Steinem requests an end to these executions, it would be an enormous help to improving North Korea's human rights issues." 

CDNK's Heo Kang Il followed by asserting that well-intentioned actions do not always bring about positive results, noting that the walk will not be of any assistance in inter-Korean talks nor will it mitigate tensions on the peninsula. 

We are concerned that the event could actually contradict its initial goal and exacerbate the conflict between the South and North--along with diverting attention away from the North Korean people suffering from grave human rights violations, he said. 

Fearful that willful human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean authorities will be eclipsed by the WCD walk, North Korean defector groups gathered outside on the same day with picket signs stating, Women Cross DMZ, dont disregard the North Korean human rights violations in the name of peace.

*Translated by Joseph Oh

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