North Korean human rights activity in Australia



Yesterday I discussed new modeling of Korean unification by Warwick McKibben, Jong Wha Lee, and Larry Weifeng Liu. Another highlight of the conference was a dinner speech delivered Sook Jin Susan Lee, chair of the Australian chapter of the National Unification Council of the Republic of Korea.

Ms. Lee based her cogent, concise, and mercifully brief remarks (it had been a long day) on a recent eight page letter that the Australian chapter had sent to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop proposing that the Australian parliament consider legislation on North Korean human rights.

The letter reviews actions regarding North Korean human rights undertaken by the UN, and Australia’s supportive middle power diplomacy in this regard, as well as North Korean human rights legislation enacted in the US, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. Needless to say the leadership of UN’s Commission of Inquiry by retired Australian High Court Justice Michael Kirby has raised the profile of the issue in Australia, adding to earlier efforts by parliamentarians such as Craig Landy and Michael Darby. The letter goes on to sketch out a legislative proposal similar in outline to the US law.

I have no idea how likely it is that the Australian parliament will pass such legislation. The Council concludes its pitch by arguing by adopting North Korean human rights legislation, the Australian government can do well by doing good: not only would passage of such a law be justified in its own right, the Council argues that such an act would increase the likelihood of Australia getting a seat on the executive committee of UNHCR for the 2018-2020 term and a place on the Security Council 2029-2030 term.

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