On Second Thought, We Can Too Remain Silent (Updated)

Update:   To extend the Marmot’s comment on this issue, sometimes it is necessary to call bullshit to cry freedom.  I thought it would be fun to contrast the South Korean Human Rights Commission’s  refusal of jurisdiction  to investigate or talk about human rights in North  Korea with its March 26,  2003  condemnation of the U.S.-coalition invasion of Iraq.  As I found this morning, the English versions of the HRC’s previous statements and annual reports  had recently and mysteriously vanished from its Web site.  I can now see why.  How did the HRC justify  its previous,  expansive claim of jurisdiction when it comes to Iraq?  I kid you not:  by linking it to … North Korea!   My lovely wife research assistant was able to find the  statement, and kindly translated it from the original Kafkarean.

The NHRC has a responsibility to protect and improve people’s human rights  in the spirit of  world human rights.  We must protect people’s rights  regarding life, safety, and keep the  international peace and avoid an invasion. The NHRC focused on international opinion that the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and UK was not approved by the  UN Security  Council ….

Note that the HRC’s declination of interest in the human rights of North Koreans is notwithstanding a second resolution of concern and condemnation by the U.N. General Assembly.

We are  deeply worried that the world peace threatened by the U.S. invasion of Iraq  could also endanger  Korea’s survival, so we want a to express our opinion to the government and  National Assembly  according to National Human Rights Act Sections 19 and 25….

Emphasis mine.

7. The Korean government and  National Assembly  should think about the Iraq war from the viewpoint of our future national  interests and humanity.   The Iraq war can be connected to the North Korean issue and the current decision could lead to a worsening of tensions on  the Korean peninsula.   

Unlike, for example,  North Korea  starving ten percent of the country’s population to death,  driving up to 300,000  refugees out of the country,  putting approximately one percent of its population in concentration camps (where another 400,000 of them died), or inflicting all of this deprivation so that it could buy MiGs and build nukes  to frighten the neighbors with.  Those things obviously have no impact on human rights or tensions on the Korean peninsula, right?

NHRC advises the Korean government and  National Assembly to approach the  Iraq war situation  from the perspective of  anti-war, peace, and human rights principles….

So there you have it.  Just to make this extra complex, I wonder what the HRC had to say about the Anfal.  Any questions?  I have one:  “Why does the HRC exist?”

Original Post:  

It took me a day to find the time to resolve my disbelief that the Human Rights Commission could swallow its own tail this quickly, but it does appear that the HRC has managed to do the impossible:  in just over thirty days, it has completely reversed an emotional public stand by its new Chairman on the most important human rights issue in Korean history.
On November 5, 2006, HRC Chairman Ahn Kyong-Hwan, said:  “I can no longer remain silent about North Korea’s rights abuses.”

Today’s HRC position, reported December 12, 2006, is:  “It is practically impossible for the South Korean government to exercise jurisdiction in North Korea….  We studied international and domestic laws, and found that North Korean citizens, in reality, can not be recognized as South Koreans.”

Now, I could say that the absence of jurisdiction doesn’t necessarily mandate silence, since the HRC has no actual authority over the North either way, but silence does indeed seem to be the object of his contortion, which manages to repudiate the long-standing interpretation of the ROK Constitution that North Koreans are South Korean citizens.  That interpretation was long used to deny North Koreans asylum in the United States.

So much for the HRC’s political independence.
On the plus side, the HRC claims jurisdiction over South Korean abductees and POW’s in the North “on a case by case basis,” meaning we can expect no public statements demanding that all be returned home.  We look forward to the HRC finding some convoluted way to retroactively strip them of citizenship.

Robert Koehler points out that the HRC believed it had jurisdiction to criticize the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which led me to go to the HRC’s site to see just how it explained that reach.  Until recently, the HRC site hosted page after page of opinions and position papers going back several years, but curiously, the HRC has just done a major file dump, and one of the files that vanished was the HRC’s annual report for 2003 (it goes 2002, 2004, 2005, …).  My lovely wife research assistant continues to look into the matter.

Robert also notes that the HRC means to educate the rest of us on how to advocate for the cessation of North Korea’s self-extermination “more wisely.”  And who among us hasn’t sat up all night awaiting the wisdom of that oracle of consistent moral authority known as the National Human Rights Commission?  That should be some treat.  After the walking corpses of Camp 22 are seen on video, when the history of Korea’s national suicide is written, the HRC ought to have its own chapter.

Meanwhile, all I can ask is that readers help the HRC’s members find some meaningful employment.  These people obviously need some real jobs just as quickly as we can help find them.  Can anyone find these folks something useful to do?

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