There is much interest as to whether North Korea will or will not initiate the February 13 Agreement. On the 21st, non-governmental organizations including the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights and Freedom House opened a forum, “The Six Party Talks and North Korean Human Rights” which discussed ways to address the issue of human rights with North Korea through the six party talks and resolutions through negotiation.
All participants agreed that the situation of human rights in North Korea was as its worst and that more support from the international community was needed in order to resolve North Korea human rights. While the international community focused on North Korea’s nuclear issue, the suffering of the North Korean people continues.
For the past few years, the U.N. and the E.U. have been addressing the issue of human rights in North Korea through various ways including the “North Korea Human Rights Resolution,” however following the nuclear test last October, the issue of North Korea human rights has pretty much taken to the back bench.
In addition, the February 13 Agreement is being delayed even further as a result of the Banco Delta Asia issue which was not even related to the implementation of the initial actions in the first place. While North Korea has never officially revealed its intentions of surrendering its nuclear weapons, there is little option but to watch whether or not the issue of human rights will be solved through the nuclear issue.
What these organizations argue is for cooperation by the international community to propose effective measures to resolve North Korea’s human rights through negotiation which will hopefully incite change.
Through the direct experiences of Kang Choel Hwan, a defector once detained in Yoduk camp, the camp was prosecuted by the international community and as a result, North Korean authorities were unable to punish Kang’s family who were left in North Korea.
Nevertheless, participants of the forum did recognize the extremely low probability of human rights issues being dealt with by the six party talks. If human rights is included on the agenda of the six party talks, it is likely that North Korea will boycott the talks.
While it will be difficult to include human rights on the agenda of six party talks, North Korea will most probably try at the least to improve human rights as it is not a completely secluded nation and rather depends greatly on foreign aid, participants argued.
The issue of human rights is the Achilles heel of the North Korean regime. Many argue that improvements to human rights in North Korea will be the ultimate evidence to symbolize that the regime has finally changed.
Hence, it is dangerous to think that it will not be late to discuss human rights issues until after North Korea’s nuclear issue is resolved. Rather North Korea’s human rights issue and the nuclear issue must be solved simultaneously. In other words, a two-track strategy is needed.