A rights group in South Korea [JURIST news archive] on Monday announced its intent to appeal to the UN over the alleged torture of Seoul activist Kim Young-hwan during his time detained in China after helping North Korean refugees there. The Committee for the Release of Kim Young-hwan is considering filing an international complaint [AFP report] against China after Chinese authorities refused to acknowledge or apologize for the alleged torture. Kim, 49, was arrested in China with three other people in late March and accused of endangering national security. The Committee had originally been founded to advocate for Kim's release, and along with the international complaint is now considering filing a criminal or civil lawsuit against the Chinese government, perhaps in the International Criminal Court [JURIST backgrounder] or in a court in China itself. After being deported home on July 20 Kim claimed he had been physically abused while in Chinese custody. North Korean refugees like those Kim was trying to aid are repatriated back to North Korea when caught in China, and Chinese authorities are generally hostile to South Korean activists like Kim who attempt to help the fugitives.
Last month Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) [advocacy website] reported that North Korea's caste system leads to human rights abuses [JURIST report] in the country, with members of the lower castes being classified as "class enemies" and not afforded basic human rights. In November UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights Marzuki Darusman criticized North Korea's human rights record [JURIST report], particularly its treatment of prisoners, echoing a UN General Assembly [official website] resolution [text] passed the same week. In March 2010 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution condemning North Korea for human rights abuses [JURIST report]. Earlier that month the UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea reported to the UNHRC that the North Korean human rights situation was continuing to deteriorate [JURIST report]. In October the US Congress gave final approval to three free trade agreements, one of which was with South Korea [HR 3080 text], marking the first time in several years that the US has formed a trade partnership. The South Korea agreement will lower or eliminate tariffs that US exporters face [JURIST report] in the country and take steps to better protect intellectual property and improve access for American investors there.