Nuclear negotiations with North Korea got off to a good start in 2018.
Now, it's time to put "human rights" on the table.
That's according to the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on North Korea's human rights, Tomas Ojea Quintana, who was speaking Friday as he wrapped up his fifth mission to Seoul.
Quintana pointed out that despite positive developments on the Korean Peninsula for the past 12 months, the human rights situation in the North hasn't changed and is still serious.
He stressed that any peace agreement will be fragile unless human rights issues are resolved.
"When the parties discuss about peace, we're talking about peace for the benefit of who? We're talking about peace for the befit of some other states except North Korea? except people living in North Korea? Peace needs to include the population of North Korea especially those living in the country side. Bring real benefit for the people in North Korea."
Quintana says the people in North Korea are in constant fear of being sent to political prison camps and exploited through forced labor.
They face strict surveillance by the government and discrimination based on social status.
The expert has made requests to visit the country for the past three years, but was never allowed and had no opportunity to communicate with the locals.
He called on Pyeongyang to open up to a human rights dialogue.
At the same time, the special rapporteur called for continued humanitarian assistance to North Korea and discussions within the UN Security Council on their sanctions.
"I also wish to repeat the call I have made to the Security Council to supervise the implementation of its sanctions with a view to ensuring that they do not have a detrimental imipact on the people of the DPR Korea. // Sanctions regime should also facilitate commendable humanitarian initiatives such as family reunions that have signifiacnt implications for human rights."
To the North, Quintana stressed that development and human rights go hand in hand.
And to the parties involved in the denuclearization talks, he echoed President Moon Jae-in's remarks -- human rights are guaranteed through peace, and peace is secured through human rights.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.