IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

NKorea's new constitution mentions human rights

North Korea's new constitution calls for respecting human rights for the first time, a possible attempt by Pyongyang to fend off international criticism about its harsh treatment of citizens, South Korean officials and an analyst said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

North Korea's new constitution calls for respecting human rights for the first time, a possible attempt by Pyongyang to fend off international criticism about its harsh treatment of citizens, South Korean officials and an analyst said Monday.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said the North's constitution, revised in April, says the state "respects and protects" human rights. The old version only said the state "defends and protects the interests" of people.

The ministry said it recently obtained the new constitution.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, says it is the first time the North's constitution has mentioned human rights.

"I think they created this clause, mindful of international criticism of their human rights record," Yang said. "It lacks details, such as how they will respect and protect human rights. I think it's just a formality."

North Korea has long been criticized for being one of the world's worst human rights abusers. It has been accused, among other things, of running a network of prison camps believed to hold hundreds of thousands of political detainees.

Pyongyang has rejected such criticism, denouncing it as part of a U.S. attempt to overthrow the regime.

The new constitution also defined Kim Jong Il as the country's highest leader in a clearer term, saying that the chairman of the all-powerful National Defense Commission — Kim's title — is the nation's "supreme leader."

The previous version only said the commission is the country's highest organization.

The new constitution also dropped references to communism and only mentions socialism.

But Yang said the change does not mean much because the charter of the North's ruling Workers' Party, which is considered higher than the constitution, still says its goal is to build a communist nation.