UN rights expert hails Republic of Korea’s protection for DPR Korea nationals

25 January 2008

An independent United Nations human rights expert today welcomed the participation of the Republic of Korea in efforts to help people from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) living in its territory while urging more measures to help the most vulnerable.

In a statement released in Geneva following a 19-24 January visit to the Republic of Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN Special Rapporteur on the DPRK human rights situation, called for continued attention to the aftermath of the Korean war, such as the issue of prisoners of war, missing persons and separated families.

He also urged greater focus on humanitarian aid to the DPRK “with effective monitoring to ensure that it reaches the target groups” as well as greater assistance to those who seek refuge from the DPRK.

The Special Rapporteur praised support by the Republic of Korea for over 10,000 nationals from the DPRK it has accepted for settlement while inviting “longer-term facilities to help them adapt to their new lives, and social, educational, employment and psychological back-up, with family and community based networks; more family reunion possibilities; more protection to be afforded to those who do not receive the protection of other countries; and a more active information campaign using success stories of those who have settled in the Republic of Korea to ensure a positive image and nurture a sense of empathy for those who exit from the DPRK in search of refuge elsewhere.”

The expert praised increased support for these persons, such as through longer term protection periods, the provision of pensions, and employment and other opportunities. He also hailed a new law allowing DPRK nationals to file for divorce from a spouse in their home country if the location of that person cannot be identified.

In addition to meeting Government officials, parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others, the Special Rapporteur interviewed a number of DPRK nationals, ranging from new arrivals to others who had settled for a period of time in the Republic of Korea.

Mr. Muntarbhorn said he was “encouraged by educational and training programmes for the young generation from the DPRK, complemented by caring neighbours who help them adapt to society.”

At the same time, he pointed to the need for longer-term care for torture victims from the DPRK as well as members of the older generation “given that they may find it difficult to adapt to the new society.”

He also called for more attention to the “heartbreaking” situation facing children of mixed marriages produced when a DPRK national has a child with another national en route to the Republic of Korea and the child is left behind in the second country. There are parallel family reunion challenges in regard to the family members left behind in the DPRK, he added.

In addition, he praised the work of the Republic of Korea’s National Human Rights Commission while stressing the need to ensure its independence.

 

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