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[Incumbent] Statement by H.E. Kang, Kyung-wha Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea On the occasion of High-level Segment 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council 24 February 2020

  • Date : 2020-02-25 11:03:36
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Statement by H.E. Kang, Kyung-wha
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea
On the occasion of
High-level Segment 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council
24 February 2020


 
Mr. Vice President, Madam High Commissioner,
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
 
I would like to begin by thanking all of you for your support for the Republic of Korea’s membership in the Human Rights Council for the new term 2020-2022. This is our fifth term, and we are deeply mindful of the roles and responsibilities that this entails. I would also like to thank the High Commissioner and her staff for their tireless endeavors to hold up the searching light of human rights in the dark corners of the world.
 
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations this year, the spirit of multilateralism that sustains the global body and the universal values that it has generated seem to be in retreat. The human rights consequences are particularly alarming and painful. In conflict zones, human life itself seems no longer to matter. In and across peaceful societies, inequality, discrimination and hatred seem to be growing.   


Meanwhile, our collective wisdom is being tested to the hilt to come to grips with the human rights implications of the ever-growing list of new global challenges, such as climate change, digital technologies and novel pathogens that quickly spread. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the situation. But we must not. Instead, let us recommit to the fundamental dignity of human beings, of every human being, for that is the ultimate value that will guide us through these uncertain times and safeguard a peaceful future for humanity.
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
In my country, as in many others, we are currently rallying to contain the spread of the COVID19 infections and treat its patients. The number of those infected in Korea have surged in the past few days, traced to a mass gathering of a particular religious sect. To deal with this surge, my government has upgraded the public health alert to the highest level. Our public health tools have been fully mobilized to deal with this fast spreading disease. While adhering to the guidance of the WHO in this global public health crisis, we are also closely coordinating and sharing information with the WHO and other countries that have also been affected.   
 
Our approach in dealing with this new disease has been people-centered from the very beginning. We are informing the public of every development and every government action with full transparency, and beefing up the capacity of our disease control and medical facilities, which are already of the highest standards. 
 
I am deeply concerned at incidents of xenophobia and hatred, discriminatory immigration controls and arbitrary repatriation programs against individuals from the affected countries. As more and more countries become affected by this disease, it is crucial that governments take steps to prevent these incidents and join forces in the global campaign to end it based on scientific evidence rather than taking action that would fan public panic.  
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
In dealing with the COVID19 crisis, the extensive and integrated digital infrastructure of Korea’s public health and medical facilities has been vital. This experience will produce many lessons learned, which we will be very happy to share with others in the future.
 
Last year, the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation underscored the relevance of a human-rights centered approach. It recommended a review of existing international human rights treaties and standards for their applications in the area of digital technologies. Last June, the Republic of Korea joined many other co-sponsors in the Council’s adoption by consensus of its first resolution on new and emerging digital technologies and human rights. We very much look forward to actively contributing to this expanding area of work for the Council, starting with a panel discussion to be held at the 44th session.

Ladies and gentlemen,
 
The urgency of climate action is also pressing for my government, and we fully support the High Commissioner’s prioritization of this issue as one of the key frontier areas of this year.
 
As part of our endeavors, in June this year in Seoul we will host the 2nd Summit meeting of “Partnering for Green Growth and Global Goals 2030”, or P4G, which is a public-private sector alliance to fund innovative climate action. While shaping the event as a stepping stone to COP 26, we aspire to upgrade our own ambition in climate action.
 
Over the years, the Council has also recognized the important role of local governments in promoting human rights and democracy as well as in achieving the sustainable development goals. Having been in the lead on this issue, my government highly appreciates the High Commissioner’s first comprehensive report on this matter published last September, which underscores the cooperation of local authorities with civil society.  

We hope the report gives impetus to the adoption of an updated resolution this coming September. It is also leading into the preparations for the 10th annual “World Human Rights Cities Forum” in Gwang-ju in May this year. We hope to see many of you there, in the city that symbolizes Korea’s path toward democracy and human rights.
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
This year, we also mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325, but the goals of these milestone commitments are far from fully realized. Significant breakthroughs for women’s rights have been achieved in many countries. But very few can claim to have rooted out violence against women. Most glaringly, sexual violence as a weapon of war persists in today’s conflict zones.
 
We will not change this deplorable reality unless we listen, really listen to the victims and honor the survivors. Indeed, this is the core recommendations of the UN human rights treaty bodies that put victim and survivor-centered approach at the core. My government continues in our efforts to support the surviving victims of “comfort women” as they try to claim their dignity and honor. Their painful experience must not be lost on current and future generations.
 
We do so in the context of the “Women, Peace and Security” agenda in general, and the eradication of sexual violence in conflict in particular. In 2018, we launched a new initiative called “Action with Women and Peace” on behalf of today’s victims and survivors of sexual violence in crisis. Last year, we worked with UNFPA, UNICEF and IOM to support Rohingya and Syrian refugee women, as well as victims of gender-based violence in Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. We hosted an international conference to raise public awareness and support for this initiative, and we are preparing for the 2nd gathering with a view to bringing sharper focus to the victim-centered approach.  
 
Madam President,


Last year, North Korea undertook it’s 3rd UPR. We hope it will faithfully implement the recommendations it accepted. On that occasion, my government stressed the plight of the separated families, which is an urgent humanitarian and human rights issue. We urge North Korea to respond to our call for a lasting resolution to this tragedy. The international community should continue to engage North Korea on human rights. My government will continue to work closely with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK as well as the OHCHR Office in Seoul. 


Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Momentous change across the whole UN human rights mechanisms is on the horizon, including the “Review 2020” of the human rights treaty body system. This is not an easy task even when the winds are blowing in its favor. In these times of strong headwinds, the relevance of the endeavors could dissipate. It is thus all the more important to double the resolve to keep our sights squarely on the ground where people live, brushing up against new and old challenges to their rights and dignity. My government will be a faithful and humble partner in this endeavor. Thank you.
 
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