Republic of Korea at the 34th Session of UN Human Rights Council

The 34th session of the Human Rights Council saw the Republic of Korea continue its active participation in discussions of the Council. Republic of Korea co-sponsored 19 resolutions during the session and made a total of 21 interventions over the 4 weeks of the session.

The resolutions they co-sponsored include both thematic and country specific resolutions. On the thematic resolutions, importantly, the Republic of Korea supported1 key resolutions on human rights defenders (A/HRC/RES/34/5), minority issues (A/HRC/RES/34/6), freedom of religion or belief (A/HRC/RES/34/10), human rights, democracy, and rule of law (A/HRC/RES/34/41), freedom of opinion and expression (A/HRC/RES/34/18), and torture (A/HRC/RES/34/19).

The Republic of Korea remains one of the few Asian states that have consistently sponsored resolutions on the country situations that require the Council’s attention. At the 34th session, the Republic of Korea sponsored the resolutions on Sri Lanka (A/HRC/RES/34/1), Myanmar (A/HRC/RES/34/22), Mali (A/HRC/RES/34/39), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) (A/HRC/RES/34/24), and Syria (A/HRC/RES/34/26).

The Republic of Korea voted in favor of resolutions on the situation of human rights in Syria and Palestine. However, it was against three resolutions: on the effects of foreign debt, terrorism on human rights, and human rights and unilateral coercive measures. It abstained the resolutions on human rights in Syrian Golan, cooperation with Georgia, negative impact of non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin, right to food, and elaboration of complementary standards to the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.

In terms of its engagement during the discussion at the Council, most of its 21 oral interventions during the session focused on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This included statements and counter-statements between the Republic of Korea and DPRK during the high-level segment and general debates of Items 2, 3 and 4 of the Council’s agenda. The Republic of Korea also made statements during the debates on mainstreaming of human rights and peace-building, situation of human rights defenders, children’s rights, access to medicine, climate change, forum on human rights, democracy, and rule of law, as well as the UPR outcomes of Venezuela and Timor-Leste. On the country specific situations, during the dialogue on the human rights in Burma/Myanmar, it welcomed the government’s efforts in its reconciliation process, but highlighted concerns at human rights violations against Rohingya.

During the debates on the resolution on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the Republic of Korea reaffirmed its recognition of the important role played by human rights defenders, and rebutting the attempts by some states to remove references to the term ‘human rights defenders’ from the resolution. It said that recognition of ‘human rights defenders’ was integral to the text, and if removed, it could have a negative effect on the safety of human rights defenders everywhere.

1 (A/HRC/RES/34/2, A/HRC/34/3, A/HRC/RES/34/9, A/HRC/RES/34/12, A/HRC/RES/34/17, and A/HRC/RES/34/40).