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U.N. rapporteur: Inspection of activist groups should not undermine efforts to improve N.K. rights situation

18:06 July 30, 2020

By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's upcoming inspection of activist groups, including those run by North Korean defectors, should be carried out in a way that does not undermine their efforts to improve the North's human rights situation, a U.N. special rapporteur was quoted as saying Thursday.

Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana made the remark during a video meeting with a senior unification ministry official as the ministry has been preparing to inspect activist groups to see if they are operating in accordance with their declared business purposes.

The inspection plans came after the ministry revoked the licenses for two defector groups accused of sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets in defiance of the government's repeated calls against such activity. North Korea strongly protested the leafleting and even blew up a joint liaison office last month.

The special rapporteur reportedly has concerns about the ministry's inspection plans.

"We explained that our decision to revoke the operation permits of Fighters for a Free North Korea and Keunsaem is a measure taken in accordance with the reasons for cancellation by civil law," the ministry said in a statement.

The official also explained that the ministry did not target activist groups that had a history of sending leaflets or were run by defectors, saying they selected the groups that failed to fully submit their annual reports according to the law.

"Quintana said that he better understood the government's decision through the meeting and that the South Korean government needs to listen to the voices of defector and activist groups and to cooperate with them," the ministry said.

The sending of leaflets has emerged as a major source of cross-border tensions since Pyongyang called it a violation of an inter-Korean summit agreement and threatened to take a series of retaliatory steps against South Korea if it did not stop such activity.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, speaks during a news conference in Seoul on June 21, 2019, wrapping up his five-day trip to Seoul to gather information for a report that he was to submit to the U.N. General Assembly in October. (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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