South Korea's point man on North Korea met with the Canadian ambassador to South Korea on Monday and called for the country's support in helping resolve dire human rights conditions in the North, the unification ministry said.
Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho made the request in a meeting with Canadian Ambassador Tamara Mawhinney as he explained South Korea's efforts to address the forced repatriation of North Korean defectors in China, as well as North Korea's denuclearization, according to Kim's office.
South Korean human rights groups said China forcibly sent hundreds of North Korean defectors from its northeastern border regions back to the North in recent weeks.
The South Korean government has confirmed the repatriation had taken place, without specifying the number of those who were repatriated.
As Pyongyang's key ally, China does not recognize North Korean defectors as refugees and regularly repatriates them to their home country, where they can face harsh punishment.
Mawhinney said the Canadian government and its embassy in Seoul are actively engaging in efforts to improve the North's human rights conditions and expressed hope on closely cooperating with Seoul. No details were given.
The two sides shared the view that multilateral efforts are important in resolving the North's human rights situation and highlighted their need to cooperate, the ministry said.
North Korea's human rights record has drawn greater international attention since the UN Commission of Inquiry issued a report in 2014 after a year-long probe, saying that North Korean leaders are responsible for "widespread, systematic and gross" violations of human rights. (Yonhap)