As more information on the prison camps became available, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay supported a resolution to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council meeting next month, calling for a commission of inquiry to be set up to investigate the gulags and other human rights abuses in North Korea.
Will South Korea cooperate with the UN endeavor and help apply more pressure on North Korea over human rights, including those of South Koreans held in the North?
Most politicians in South Korea have evaded these issues, so as not to provoke Pyongyang. Park Geun-hye is one of the few public figures who has spoken out.
She stated during the campaign that “we cannot go on neglecting the suffering of the North Korean people” and promised to prevent the forcible repatriation of North Koreans and strengthen the “resettlement support program for North Korean defectors.”
As the president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye’s great challenge will be to keep faith with these pledges. In so doing, she will be the first South Korean leader to make the human rights issue of the North Korean people a national priority without fear of offending Pyongyang.
Shirley Lin Chang, associate professor emeritus of information and library sciences of Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, is chair of the Committee of Public Relations and International Affairs of BPW-Taiwan and president of its Taipei Club II.