The opening of a United Nations office in Seoul to monitor human rights violations across the border drew severe criticism from North Korea even as the United States lauded the U.N. effort.
The U.N. said in a statement Tuesday that the decision to open the office stemmed from the recommendations of a February 2014 report on an inquiry into human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The new office would help millions who “remain trapped in the grip of a totalitarian system which not only denies their freedom, but increasingly their basic survival needs,” United Nations High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said, in the statement.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said, in a briefing: “These efforts will lay the groundwork for bringing to account those responsible for atrocities in the DPRK, and we believe this is an important step forward in implementing the UN Commission of Inquiry recommendations.”
However, North Korea’s foreign ministry said the move was aimed at tarnishing its image “under the pretext of a non-existent ‘human rights issue.’”
KCNA, the reclusive country’s official news agency, cited the foreign ministry as saying: “This is a hideous politically-motivated provocation challenging the dignity and social system of the DPRK and a criminal act of escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the region and inciting confrontation under the pretext of ‘protecting human rights.’”
Responding to the North's reactions, the State Department's Kirby said that the U.S. has "deep concerns about those comments and would just reiterate that they do nothing to help the security and stability on the Korean peninsula.”
Pyongyang, which had previously protested the opening of the human rights monitoring cell in Seoul, also announced that it would boycott the upcoming Summer Universiade games, scheduled to be held in South Korea next month.