Dr. Paik Jang-hyun,Professor at Hanshin University,Senior researcher at the Catholic Institute of Northeast Asia Peace (CINAP) Soon after coming into office, the Biden administration targeted Saudi Arabia, a US ally in the Middle East, by sanctioning personnel involved in the assassination of the dissident journalist Khashoggi, and it is expected that a human rights offensive will be directed at North Korea next. Human rights will necessarily be an important issue in normalization talks between the US and North Korea. That’s because if you take into account the precedent set by France and other European Union countries which raised the issue of human rights in North Korea when they conducted normalization talks with North Korea in the early 2000s, this issue won’t be easy for the US Congress, led by the Democratic Party, which emphasizes human rights. Jamal Khashoggi and President Biden. Biden pressed for human rights reforms in Saudi Arabia, releasing a report on Khashoggi, who was killed after criticizing the Saudi royal family. The Globalization of North Korean Human Rights The issue of human rights entered the domain of international relations since the end of the Second World War. International society became conscious of the importance of human rights after experiencing of the massacre of the Jews by the Nazis, and when the United Nations was founded, provisions for human rights were included in its charter. After that, diverse conventions were enacted, and a human rights regime was founded. In the early 1990s, after the end of the Cold War, a consensus formed that human rights were a universal value of humanity and must no longer be considered as a domestic issue. Former Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan stated the precedence of individual sovereignty over state sovereignty, and spread the perspective that intervention in response to infractions of human rights can be carried out across national borders. UN Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK at the UN (ⒸYonhap News) The issue of human rights in North Korea emerged as an issue in international society in the 1990s when the food shortage caused large numbers of people to defect from North Korea. Through the testimonies of the defectors, serious infractions of human rights in North Korea became known and international society began to pay attention. Since 2005, the UN General Assembly has adopted each year a Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, and international civil society organizations have also raised awareness about the poor human rights conditions in North Korea by publishing reports, holding campaigns, etc. In Sept. 2011, 40 human rights organizations from 15 countries, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Federation for Human Rights, founded together the “International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea.” There are hardly any differing opinions regarding the seriousness of the issue of human rights in North Korea. We cannot see directly the situation of human rights in North Korea, but it can be checked through cross-analyzing the testimonies of defectors. A 2014 report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea revealed serious, organized, widespread human rights infractions committed by institutions and government officials in 6 categories: infringement of the freedoms of thought, conscience and religion, discrimination, infringement of the freedoms of residence and movement, infringement of the rights to food and to life, arbitrary detention, the use of torture and detention camps, and kidnapping in foreign countries. Furthermore, the commission ruled that these infringements constituted crimes against humanity, and the Security Council referred the perpetrators to the International Criminal Court. The response of North Korean authorities The Rodong Sinmun expressed grievances against the US regarding the adoption of the UN Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK (ⒸRodong Sinmun 2018.11.26) North Korean authorities have ruled that the demands by international society for the improvement of human rights constitute an offensive against the North Korean socialist system, that it is an excuse for imperialist forces to overthrow the North Korean system and institute regime change. They reason that each nation and ethnicity has its own history, practices, economy, level of cultural development, lifestyle, and other conditions, so one country’s standards cannot be uniformly applied. In Nov. 2018, when the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on North Korean human rights, * the Rodong Sinmun criticized the US, saying it was a “ridiculous farce by the United States” and that “the US claims that our nuclear problem is the obstacle to improving DPRK-US relations, but even if that is resolved, they will harass us regarding the human rights question." * the Rodong Sinmun[Korean: 로동신문; lit. Workers' Newspaper] is a North Korean newspaper that serves as the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. What stands out in North Korea’s response is the focus of their criticism on the US as the driving force. When they address the UN or international society at large, they minimize diplomatic isolation, and then in their diplomatic relations with the UN they try to leave room to maneuver. North Korean authorities have called the UN Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK a scheme of the US, but their persuasion fails when one considers the leading role played by the EU. In the early 2000s, when the nations of the EU conducted negotiations to normalize relations with North Korea, they raised the issue of human rights but North Korea did not respond, so through the UN Human Rights Council they have adopted a resolution in the General Assembly since 2005, pointing out the serious situation of human rights in North Korea and calling for correction. The diplomatic response of North Korea has been strong objection and hints of dialogue on human rights, appeasing gestures and hints of nuclear armament, a jumbled mixture of toughness and moderation. The need for North Korea to make an extraordinary decision The EU and China discuss Hong Kong and Xinjiang human rights issues during a virtual summit. (ⒸXinhua News Agency, China) Human rights are non-negotiable rights which are endowed inherently to all humans. Though one can have different opinions about the way that the Western conception of human rights has prioritized individual freedoms, one cannot deny that protection of human rights is a universal value. China, which had taken the lead to promote cultural relativism, accepted the concept of universal human rights in the mid 90s, and it is worth considering this case which represented a breakthrough in the promotion of human rights. In May 1997, President Jiang Zemin and French President Chirac held a summit and released a joint statement declaring, “The protection and promotion of human rights must be exercised according to the spirit and principles of the UN Charter, including the universality of human rights,” recognizing for the first time the universality of the concept of human rights. In a speech to the Asia Society in October of that year, Jiang Zemin acknowledged, “Collective and individual human rights, economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights are inseparable from one another.” After that, China signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and has conducted dialogue with the EU regarding the promotion of human rights twice a year since 1995. North Korean leaders must actively work together with international society to improve human rights. Improvement of human rights possesses in itself an absolute value, and is a hurdle that must be passed to normalize relations with the United States and Japan and to enter international society.