A Sign of Hope

February 26, 2010

(AFP) – Feb 3, 2010

SEOUL — North Korea must respect human rights if it wants to improve relations with the United States and end its international isolation, a US envoy said Thursday.

Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights, said in a message to a Seoul seminar that the US government remains “deeply concerned” about the issue and the plight of North Korean refugees.

“Respect for human rights by the DPRK (North Korea) will have significant impact on the prospect of closer ties with the US and will be necessary for North Korea to fully participate in the international community,” King said in the message read at the seminar.

In its traditional New Year editorial, the North called for an end to longstanding hostile relations with the United States.

US ambassador Kathleen Stephens told the forum the State Department would provide three million dollars this year to promote human rights and fund radio broadcasts into the communist state.

“We will continue to fund radio broadcasts into North Korea to try to provide information about the outside world,” she said, adding that her government will also work to support North Korean refugees.

Almost all North Korean refugees flee first to China, which repatriates those whom it catches as economic migrants even though they face harsh punishment back home.

Parliament Speaker Kim Hyung-O urged South Korea’s conservative government to address the North’s security concerns.

“A declaration guaranteeing the security of the North’s regime is necessary… when the North begins to trust the South, inter-Korean ties will improve greatly,” he said in his welcome address at the seminar.

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