South Korea plans to convene UN meeting on North Korea rights abuses

By Thomson Reuters Jun 3, 2024 | 3:03 PM

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – South Korea plans to convene in mid-June a public United Nations Security Council meeting on human rights abuses in North Korea, Seoul’s U.N. envoy said on Monday, a move that is likely to anger Pyongyang and face opposition from Russia and China.

The 15-member council last met on the issue in August 2023, its first public discussion since 2017. China opposed it then – saying the council should not discuss human rights issues – but did not try to block the meeting due to a lack of support.

The U.N. Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security. China and Russia argue that the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is the appropriate venue for discussions on human rights.

South Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Joonkook Hwang said he hoped there would significant support among council members to hold a meeting, noting that the issue of human rights in North Korea – whose formal name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – is formally on the Security Council’s agenda.

“The DPRK human rights and humanitarian situation is closely interlinked with North Korea’s aggressive WMD nuclear development,” he told reporters, using the acronym for “weapons of mass destruction, as South Korea assumed the Security Council presidency for June.

The North Korean, Russian and Chinese U.N. missions in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

North Korea has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation. Since 2006 it has been under U.N. sanctions over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, but there are aid exemptions.

Between 2014 and 2017 the Security Council held annual public meetings on human rights abuses in North Korea. The council held annual formal meetings behind closed doors on the issue between 2020-2022

A landmark 2014 U.N. report on North Korean human rights concluded that North Korean security chiefs – and possibly leader Kim Jong Un himself – should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities. The United States sanctioned Kim in 2016 for human rights abuses.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis)