NEW YORK/SEOUL - A United Nations panel adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for stepped-up efforts to improve human rights conditions in North Korea.
The Third Committee, which oversees humanitarian issues, approved the text for the 13th consecutive year, with new emphasis on the need to resume reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and provide assistance to foreign nationals detained in the North.
The resolution is expected to be put to a full UN General Assembly vote next month.
The assembly "condemns the long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," according to a draft resolution.
It points to the UN Commission of Inquiry's landmark 2014 report that details abuses ranging from torture and rape to public executions and retaliation against asylum seekers repatriated from abroad.
In the latest high-profile defection, a presumed North Korean soldier crossed the inter-Korean border into the South on Monday. He is reportedly in critical condition after being shot by four other North Korean soldiers who chased him.
The resolution also "strongly urges" the North Korean government to "immediately put an end" to the human rights violations and provide foreign detainees with access to diplomatic missions in the country as well as any other necessary arrangements to "confirm their status and to communicate with their families."
There are currently three Americans and six South Koreans held in the North. In June, an American college student who was arrested in Pyongyang last year died days after being returned to the US in a coma.
On the reunions, the assembly notes that it is an "urgent humanitarian concern" of the Korean people due to the advanced age of many of the separated family members, and calls on both South and North Korea to resume the meetings that were suspended in late
South Korea welcomed the UN's adoption of the resolution and called on the North to take immediate action to improve its dire human rights conditions.
"The government urges the North once again to take detailed and substantive steps immediately in accordance with the recommendations of the UN resolution," the foreign ministry said in a commentary issued in the name of its spokesman.
North Korea's ambassador to the UN, Ja Song-nam, said his country "categorically" rejects the resolution.
"The draft resolution represents a product of the political and military confrontation plot and the conspiracy of the US and other hostile forces to the DPRK, and the extreme manifestation of politicization, selectivity and the double standards of human rights," he said in remarks before the committee ahead of the text's adoption.
He then left the meeting room.
The resolution was jointly penned by the European Union and Japan, with the contributions of 60 nations including South Korea. (Yonhap)