Monday, June 20, 2011

North Korean Human Rights Slides Again

What has long been suspected is official; the North Korean Human Rights Bill will not be addressed during the June session of the National Assembly.

Given that the same bill had been delayed or otherwise avoided by the powers that be for six years, having been first introduced way back in 2005, watchers are not surprised.

To be frank, it had never really seemed likely that the bill would make it onto the statute at this point either, given a history of implacable leftist opposition, the frequently violent nature of South Korean legislative politics and the fact that the Grand National Party has not always seemed unduly committed to making it happen anyway.

Meanwhile, whatever one may think of the Chosun Ilbo, and I have had some choice words for it before, it has always supported the bill, and in this article amply reflects the annoyance felt by many at the hypocrisy of the ruling party;

(GNP Floor Leader) Hwang Woo Yea, speaking on the 7th said, ‘If we were to not pass the North Korean Human Rights Bill within the session, there would be popular resistance and international criticism,’ and on the same day, policy head Lee Joo Young said, ‘We will absolutely pass the North Korea Human Rights Bill in the June National Assembly.’

However, these avowals became mere empty words. An anonymous official near the center of GNP politics said, ‘We judged that it would be all but impossible to deal with the North Korean Human Rights Bill within the June National Assembly given the Democratic Party’s opposition to dealing with it and insistence on merging it with their own North Korean Livelihoods and Human Rights Law.’ A Democratic Party person said, ‘The Grand National Party didn’t appear to have a strong will to deal with it during the June National Assembly from the beginning.’

So off the bill goes, leaving in its wake the task of addressing corruption vis a recent savings bank scandal and the composition of a group to deal with the ongoing dilly-dallying and silliness that passes for negotiation of the US-South Korea FTA.

Of course, on the human rights bill both sides may, in reality, have been quite right. The GNP really would find it extremely difficult to get the bill onto the statute in any form as things stand, and many GNP lawmakers see it as a bill which can be traded away for more beneficial, populist policies as time demands anyway. The Democratic Party knows all this equally well and is quite happy to play that particular game, leaving the original bill stalled in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee while the two sides trade self-aggrandizements about how much they 'truly' want to help the North Korean people.

If the nation continues on this path, of course, one day one of two things will occur. Either unification will come, and some hard questions will have to be asked of those who did nothing to help the North Korean people, or it will not come, defections will continue and eventually there will be enough defectors in areas of South Korea to make such a bill a vote winner.

It will be interesting then to see how quickly those lawmakers who would currently prefer to ignore the problem completely change their collective tune.

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