SEOUL: South Korea on Thursday (Jul 7) welcomed the first US sanctions imposed on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for human rights abuses.
In a statement, its foreign ministry urged Pyongyang to improve its human rights record, which can include harsh treatment for families of North Koreans who defect to the south. Around 29,000 North Koreans currently live in the south.
South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said that it is important to put more pressure on Pyongyang to change its ways and come forward for negotiations.
“We are expecting that the sanctions will raise the awareness of the international community about the grave situation of broad and systemic human rights violations in North Korea, while contributing to strengthening related measures and advancing the discussion on this matter,” he said.
Seo Jae-pyong escaped North Korea nearly 15 years ago. He now works with other North Korean refugees in Seoul to bring democracy and fight for human rights in the country where he was born. He said it is important especially for defectors like him as their families in North Korea face harsh punishment.
“Families of those who publicly announce that they have defected to the south are all taken to political prisoner camps. They can’t afford to come forward and explain how and why they defected. Punishment for the families left behind is from one extreme to another, between those who publicly speak of the defection and those who do not,” he said…