SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA A proposed South Korean law to reclassify abductees held in the North as missing persons, is drawing strong criticism from human rights advocates.

Abduction is a crime. Missing person is not classified under international law as a crime. So the question is why would you do that? asked Joanna Hosaniak with the Seoul based advocacy group Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR.)

NKHR was one of 11 human rights organizations that sent a joint letter of complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Office in Seoul about the proposed South Korean National Assembly bill that would remove the term abductee in referring to cases of South Korean citizens that are believed to have been captured and held indefinitely by the communist North.

The bill cites the need to replace the accusatory and criminal classification of abductee because it draws resistance from North Korea, and to replace it with the term missing person instead.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who heads the ruling progressive Democratic Party and is a former human rights lawyer, has played a key role in reviving diplomatic talks with Pyongyang to increase inter-Korean cooperation and to work toward removing all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.

Moon's ruling party proposal to reclassify abductees as missing persons is seen by some supporters as a way to diffuse the contentious issue and to gain Pyongyang's cooperation to resolve these claims without assigning blame or penalty.

Human rights advocates, however, argue the bill is contrary to international human rights standards referring to crimes of abduction and enforced disappearance and is a betrayal to the victims' families that have demanded justice and accountability.

They feel their own country is failing them. Their own country is betraying them. I think this is completely wrong, Hosaniak said.

The coalition of human rights groups in Seoul have called upon the Special Rapporteur for human rights in North Korea and the U.N. Human Rights Office in Seoul to ensure that the South Korean government adheres to the past U.N. recommendation to firmly integrate human rights and accountability into any political process for the Korean Peninsula.

Source: Voice of America