Charges by a defector that North Korea forced him to perform gruesome experiments using chemical weapons on political prisoners will be officially ignored by South Korea.
Seoul will not confront Pyongyang over claims by the North Korean scientist because the charges might hurt relations between the two countries, a senior official at the Unification Ministry said.
“It’s hard to check the authenticity of the North Korean defector’s allegation,” the unnamed official told the Korea Times on condition of anonymity. “But unless the claims can be clarified, we will not take up the issue with North Korea.”
A BBC report aired last week quoted a defector identified only as Dr. Kim as saying he had experimented on prisoners with a cyanide-based gas since the late 1970s. The BBC screened a report containing similar claims in February, but the South Korean government questioned its veracity.
Responding to the latest report, the Unification Ministry official said while the international community may blame Seoul for failing to address human-rights issues with Pyongyang, the government believes raising the claims would hurt progress in inter-Korean relations.
“South Korea fully understands the seriousness of the North Korean humanitarian issue, but we are taking a different approach to that of the international community,” he said.
Seoul has been strongly criticized both at home and abroad for its silence over North Korean human-rights violations, including abstaining in recent years from votes on U.N. resolutions dealing with the issue.
The nature of the experiments revealed by the defector involved determining how long it takes a human being to die once exposed to the chemical agents.
“We wanted to determine how much gas was necessary to annihilate the whole city of Seoul,” said Kim in the report.