(LEAD) Unification minister meets U.N. rapporteur for N. Korea’s human rights

Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho met with the U.N. special rapporteur for North Korea’s human rights Monday and vowed close cooperation to improve Pyongyang’s dismal rights records.

Elizabeth Salmon has been visiting South Korea since last Monday for a nine-day trip to meet with government officials, North Korean defectors and rights groups, as she will submit a report on the North’s rights issues to the U.N. based on the results of her trip.

“Seoul’s unification ministry is preparing a roadmap aimed at improving North Korea’s human rights situation. If the roadmap is drawn up, I think this could be a chance for (the government) to further cooperate with Salmon,” Kim said, without elaborating.

Kim said that improving the human rights of the North Korean people is the top priority for South Korea, while voicing hope that Salmon will help contribute to the initiative, according to the ministry.

As North Korea appears to be opening up its borders after years of stringent COVID-19 lockdown, concerns have grown that North Korean defectors could be forcibly repatriated to the North.

Salmon said she expects the South Korean government’s role to help enhance North Korea’s human rights records, as it has large amounts of information on the North’s situation.

“I am very eager to work for cooperation with you and your government,” she said.

President Yoon Suk Yeol has taken a hard-line stance against the North’s provocative acts and has stressed the need to make the international community aware of North Korea’s human rights abuses.

In a related move, the ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs set up a task force this month to handle South Korean detainees, abductees and prisoners of war in North Korea.

Source: Yonhap News Agency