SEOUL, South Korea’s proposed North Korean Human Rights Act has come under fire, and opposition lawmakers and activist groups are concerned the law could aggravate fragile relations with Pyongyang.
The bill, which has been delayed since 2005, is being met with skepticism for being too biased, South Korean outlet Media Today reported.
North Korea has accused the South of “provocations” that include the proposed law as well as helium balloon launches by defector organizations.
The bill includes provisions for the financial support of the organizations that have denounced the Kim Jong Un regime and angered Pyongyang with its distribution of anti-Kim leaflets across the heavily fortified border along the DMZ.
South Korean civic groups that are against the bill said taxpayers’ support for defector organizations could interfere with North-South détente, and that $387,000 of public funds have been allocated to defector groups in the last 3 years.
If passed, the bill could be a “trigger” that could worsen inter-Korea relations, civic groups have said, adding the stipulations are too broad to make a positive impact, and that the ultimate agent in reforming North Korea lies with the regime in power.
But if the law passes new measures could follow, including the creation of a North Korean Human Rights Foundation, the appointment of a South Korea envoy on North Korea human rights, and the creation of a North Korea Human Rights Archive that could collect relevant data on human rights abuses.
Pyongyang has denied allegations of human rights abuses and has said defectors’ testimonies are baseless lies.
Opposition is growing among politically progressive groups, South Korean outlet News 1 reported.
The Catholic Human Rights Committee and 36 other activist organizations have said the North Korean Human Rights Act would endanger peace on the peninsula, and perhaps ironically present “an insult to human rights.”
Others outside Korea have expressed a different view. In September a New York-based human rights group said the time has come for South Korea to follow in the footsteps of the United States, Canada and Japan through the passage of a North Korea human rights bill.
Seoul has “nothing” to combat Pyongyang’s violations, Human Rights Foundation president Thor Halvorssen had said in September.