N. Korea slams ongoing U.N. probe into its rights conditions

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea criticized Friday the ongoing investigation by the United Nations into human rights conditions in the communist country, warning the probe will dampen the thawing inter-Korean relations.

Three members of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), under the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, arrived in Seoul last week for a 10-day visit to investigate and compile reports on human rights conditions in the North.

As part of the trip, the commission has been holding a series of public hearings since Tuesday to collect evidence from dozens of defectors, activists and North Korea experts. It is the first systematic review of its kind.

Collecting such information on the North's human rights situations "equals an anti-reunification activity that dampens the inter-Korean dialogue mood," the North's propaganda website Uriminjokkiri said in its commentary.

Calling the ongoing inspection "the tinderbox of confrontation," the North warned that the continued probe "would bring the thawing ties back to the point of confrontation."

North Korea has not mentioned the ongoing inspections by the U.N. panel so far, which indicates that it has refrained from lashing out at South Korea and the international community to maintain the current trend of positive inter-Korean relations.

Following last week's deal to restart the joint industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong, there have been a series of signs of improved relations. For one, the Red Cross talks have been underway on Friday, aimed at discussing the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has been accused of grave human rights abuses ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in concentration camps to committing torture and carrying out public executions. The country, however, has denied the accusations, calling them U.S.-led propaganda to topple its regime.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang spoke highly of the recent deal to resume operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and expressed hope for "further agreements on several other proposals."

"We have a strong will to continue the momentum of the agreement (on the Kaesong park) ... To that end, we've put forth several proposals," said the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea.

Apart from the ongoing talks to arrange the family reunions, discussions are under way on when and how the two sides can sit down for talks aimed at restarting tours to the North's scenic resort of Mount Kumgang.

"If our proposals are realized, inter-Korean relations will leap forward and pave the way for national reunification," it added.

South Korea suspended tours to the mountain resort after a South Korean woman was shot dead by a North Korean border guard there in 2008. The project had provided a legitimate source of hard currency to the impoverished communist country.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>