S Korea rights body to take a rare stand on North

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Seoul, Mar 16: The majority of South Korea's independent Human Rights Commission is pushing to tell Seoul it was time to take a stand on North Korea's human rights record, commission officials today (Mar 16, 2006) said.

The South Korean government has refused to join international condemnation of human rights abuses in the North out of concern that such a move could rattle ties with Pyongyang, which considers any criticism of its human rights as deeply offensive.

But the commission, whose 11 members are nominated by the president, parliament and the courts, is moving closer to urging the government to take a clear position.

It has not previously taken any stand on the issue and the officials did not give any indication what language might be in the commission's recommendations.

''Eight of the 10 members share the view that it is important for the commission to take a position and tell the government it needs to do the same,'' an official at the commission secretariat said by telephone.

The member not providing a view was the chairman.

The commission makes recommendations to the government but its views are not binding.

Washington and rights groups have said North Korea has an abysmal record on human rights, saying it maintains a network of political prison camps, has guilt by association and uses public executions to intimidate the masses.

South Korea has come under fire from human rights groups and some countries for abstaining in votes on UN measures to condemn the North's human rights record.

Seoul has also avoided the subject in bilateral dialogue with the North, and South Korean officials have said they feel the best way to improve the situation is through quiet diplomacy.


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