SKorea: Human Rights Commission in landmark NKorea probe
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SKorea: Human Rights Commission in landmark NKorea probe

Original article in Korean is at this link. I seem to recall the NHRC generally condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses previously, but this is the first instance of it investigating specific victim’s claims.

Also, perhaps the Commission’s about-face is in response to charges that it has been captured by conservatives.

A group of North Korean refugees and family members of South Koreans abducted to North Korea who suffered torture while in North Korean prisons have vowed to send the National Human Rights Commission (국가인권위원회) a petition to “investigate Kim Jong-il’s suppression of human rights.”

On the 13th the group The Lawyers for Citizens (시민과 함께하는 변호사들) announced that Mr. Park and 14 other North Korean refugees, along with Mr. Lee and seven other family members of abductees, have sent to the NHRC’s new North Korean human rights violation center three petitions alleging abuse by Kim Jong-il.

The NHRC’s North Korean human rights violation center has said that it plans to investigate the victimization alleged in the petitions. This appears to be the first time the NHRC has investigated a human rights victim of North Korea. There have been over 70 petitions asking for investigation of North Korean human rights abuses, but the NHRC has mostly turned them down because they did not present “proper subjects for investigation” and took little action.

Hyeon Byeong-cheol, head of the NHRC, said that “we want it to be known at home and abroad that we will thoroughly investigate petitions regarding human rights in North Korea, beginning with this investigation.

Ms. Seo, a North Korean refugee, said in her petition that “in 2002, when I was caught in China and returned to North Korea, security agents said that I ‘probably had hidden money’ and used their hands to search my genitals, forcibly opening them, and sexually tortured me in other ways.”

Mr. Do said that “while I was in prison I was tortured in various ways including standing on one leg for a long time and having my nose pushed into a toilet… while under water torture I collapsed from anemia and injured my back but was still required to do physical labor.”

Ms. Lee said that “after I was imprisoned by the State Security Department I was released in November of 2005, but the guard turned a child face-down in order to kill it, and when I tried to stop this I was hit and lost five teeth, and in the end the child died.” Family members of seven abductees, including the son of Mrs. Hwang who never returned after being abuducted in the Korean Air Lines hijacking in 1969, plan to also send a petition.

As to the reason that they chose Kim Jong-il as the sole named oppressor, they said that “it is because he is the highest political leader in North Korea, and all crimes ocurred through his commands and by his subordinates.” Lee Heon, speaking for the lawyers aiding these citizens, said that “at first we investigated the possibilities of criminal or civil cases against Kim Jong-il, but realistically it would be a difficult case to investigate and judge and so we sent a petition to the NHRC.”