ruling party leader-NK human rights bill

SEOUL, March 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ruling party leader Hwang Woo-yea on Tuesday called for efforts to pass a bill aimed at improving North Korea's dismal human rights situation.

The bill, pushed by the ruling conservative Saenuri Party, has been pending in parliament for years due to opposition from liberal parties that fear it could anger North Korea and worsen the already-tense inter-Korean relations.

"The 19th National Assembly must pass the North Korean human rights bill that failed to pass the 18th National Assembly," Hwang said at a forum calling for the bill's passage.

"Human rights are a person's inherent right that no state or person can violate, and it is not a domestic issue limited to a particular country," he said, citing a recent move by the United Nations' top human rights body to conduct its first in-depth investigation of human rights abuses in the communist nation.

Hwang added that he hopes the bill will include measures to support human rights groups in North Korea, send humanitarian aid to the country, and keep historical records of the conditions there.

North Korea is accused of serious human rights abuses ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, committing torture and carrying out public executions.

The country has flatly denied the accusations, calling them a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

In 2004, the United States passed legislation on North Korea's human rights situation.

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