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Should human rights be on the agenda for the first summit?

Coming up with an agenda for the first summit between the North and the South in ten years would be no easy task. President Abe has requested that the issue of Japanese abductees be raised and I'm sure this is not the only matter to be suggested. North Korea still forcibly keeps captive both Japanese and South Korean abductees, despite individual and international attempts to free them, so there will be families holding their breaths when the agenda is drawn up.

Many have logically argued that it is premature to raise issues of human rights violations at the first Summit. This reasoning follows that it may well be received like a gauntlet to the face of North Korean negotiators, pushing North Korea away from the negotiation table and back to where they have stored their sabres and pistols. This fear is further justified by past experiences with North Korea where it became clear that the North had established 'no-go zones' for any discussions with the South, their "brethren". When these pigeons were let fly, the Kim regime shot them out of the air before they were in full flight.

No-one could blame the President Moon for being cautious or for considering a "softly, softly..." approach at such a critical event.

As far as the Kim regime is concerned, this summit is likely about the technicalities of re-unification, mutual cultural and economic endeavors and lots of other 'goodwill' type discussions that will consolidate the brotherhood and pure bloodlines of Koreans on both sides of the Imperialists 38th Northern parallel. All experts agree that it will ultimately be about the relaxation of sanctions and the provision of aide.

I highly doubt that President Moon has the same agenda as Kim Jong-un, but nonetheless, he is painfully aware that the Kim regime will react angrily, and very likely spitefully, if he insists on discussions of issues in the "no-go zone." The North Korean Central Agency has already voiced its horror and disdain that South Korea would support further U.N. sanctions in the 'no-go zone'.

What to do? What to do? Should issues regarding the horrific breaches of human rights in North Korea be placed on this first agenda, or do we pretend that this is a meeting between two sovereign nations who just need to iron out some past grievances, arrange a few more concerts, and wait for a more appropriate time to discuss those touchy subjects such as the value of human life?

Common sense suggests that President Moon should wait, after all this is a once in lifetime opportunity and the people of North Korea have already been persecuted and suffered for literally decades. The "slowly, slowly..."approach, would raise these issues once agreements are signed.

The trouble with that common-sense argument is that it assumes one very essential thing, that is, that a "right time"' to discuss the issue of human rights violation will eventually present itself. If there is historical evidence to support this idea, then we need to hear it now, but if the historical evidence reveals that this personality cult regime has denied any breaches of human rights for seventy years then we need to consider that.

In fact, more than just having denied it, the Kim regime has, and still does, claimed to be a bastion of virtue in a sullied world, a defender, nay, a champion for women's right, men's rights and the rights of children. It boasts of a world class medical infrastructure, universities par excellence and a welfare system where none are left behind. Is there the smallest amount of evidence to suggest that Kim Jong-un has or will in the future accept any other narrative?

Alternatively, should the issues of human rights violations be raised at summits with the United States, China or Japan? At this point, I feel almost giddy as my mind whirls with all the reasons why that wouldn't work. I'm sure they are too obvious to require naming. No, these are not the summits to raise issues of human rights and expect anything but an explosive or implosive outcome.

The United States have already made it known that they will not be handing out free gifts at their summit. But are President Trump and President Abe really the world leaders that we should trust to handle this incredibly sensitive and delicate issue? If President Trump demands inspectors be allowed into North Korea to take stock of the human damage, is there not a very good chance that to save face before the Imperialists, Kim Jong-un will likely make the suffering simply disappear - forever?

There is another argument for South Korea to include the human rights issue on their first agenda and it is very simple, that these human rights violations exist. Added to this, is the fact that the momentous issue of the violation of human rights cannot be separated from any other issue that can be brought to the table. Whether the issues are cultural, economic or societal, the greatest obstacle to peace on the Peninsula, even greater than the potential missiles that may or may not be aimed at the U.S., is the deprivation, suffering and dying of Koreans. It is the blood-stained, beaten, emaciated and chained up elephant in the room!

Not referring to the poor suffering animal doesn't make it go away, but it certainly sends a message to the suffering creature that it has very little value in the scheme of things. Olympic Games and joint hockey teams have not brought North and South Korea to the table, rather, Kim Jong Un is prepared to talk because sanctions have caused him to run out of excuses that explain why North Koreans are living in squalor, why women have few rights over their own bodies and why children can be used as slave labor.

It would be bordering on the ridiculous to expect that by placing human rights violation on the agenda, Kim Jong-un would open his borders and allow aid to go directly to his citizens (although, never rule out the ridiculous!). But placing human rights on the agenda, Kim Jong-un would be receiving notice that the days of repression and suffering are numbered. It need require little more than a bullet point that a date be set to discuss human rights violations and how to respond to them. Setting a date would be a resounding message to the international community, allied countries and the people of North Korea that South Korea will not sit by while Koreans suffer and die, nor will it turn a blind eye to deliberate evil.

The decision would have the full support of the United Nations Council for Human Rights along with other NGOS who have already issued a letter to President Moon to put human rights on the agenda.

Perhaps, just as significantly, it will bring the issue of human rights violations in North Korea to a place of priority, prompting the international community to prepare a world-wide response while South Korea remains the lead player, but not necessarily the lead donor.

If the suffering of human beings, doesn't earn a spot on this agenda, and if the outcome is more lavish dinners and visiting celebrities, then the world will rightly be asking, "Why?" At what point are relations between the North and South so stable that President Moon can say, "Oh, by the way, about your heinous record of human right violations, it might be time that we do something about that. Let's get some journalists together and do a shoot (emphasizing 'photo') in front of one of your death camps?"

I'm not suggesting that President Moon go in all guns blazing for a final showdown, but simply with a bullet point marked "Human Rights Violation a Discuss and decide solution", President Moon may be making history and a future for millions at the same time. If Kim wants sanctions lifted, and he will, addressing his violation of human rights must be on the agenda.

Of course, we could just wait and ignore the elephant a little longer.
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Publication:The Korea Times News (Seoul, Korea)
Geographic Code:9SOUT
Date:Apr 21, 2018
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