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UN General Assembly slams Pyongyang's human rights record

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN General Assembly on Monday condemned human rights abuses in North Korea but UN leader Ban Ki-moon vowed to maintain international aid for the country after the death of Kim Jong-Il.

The 193 nation assembly passed the condemnation of the North by 123 votes to 16, with 51 abstentions. It was a record vote in favor but China, a key ally of the north, was among countries to oppose the resolution.

A single North Korean diplomat was in the assembly and later refuted the vote, without mentioning the new tensions surrounding his country.

The resolution raised “very serious concern” over the “torture” and “inhuman conditions of detention, public executions, extra-judicial and arbitrary detention” in North Korea. It also condemned the “existence of a large number of prison camps and the extensive use of forced labor.”

“There have never been such violations of human rights in my country as mentioned in the resolution,” said the North Korean diplomat.

He said the western backers of the resolution were seeking to “overthrow our political and social system by increasing international pressure against the DPRK” -- the country is officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

“What kind of system we have is a matter to be decided by us,” the envoy said, describing the resolution as part of “a hotbed of confrontation and distrust.”

The UN's South Korean leader meanwhile expressed condolences to the North's people over the death of Kim.

“The secretary general reaffirms his commitment to peace and security on the Korean peninsula. The United Nations system will continue to help the people of the DPRK,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

Ban, a former foreign minister for the North's arch-rival South Korea, extended his “sympathy” to the people of North Korea “at this time of their national mourning.”

Human rights groups on Monday urged North Korea to change its ways after the death of leader Kim Jong-Il, saying he led a “hell on earth” and killed thousands, if not millions of people.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were both guarded in their hopes for Kim's son and heir apparent Kim Jong-Un, saying that North Korea has one if not the worst rights records in the world.

“North Korea under Kim Jong-Il has been a human rights hell on earth,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, estimating Kim was responsible for thousands or even millions of deaths through starvation, prisons, labor camps and public executions.

“Kim Jong-Il will be remembered as the brutal overseer of massive and systematic oppression that included a willingness to let his people starve,” Roth said in a statement.

“When he assumes leadership, Kim Jong-Un should break with the past and put the human rights of North Koreans first, not last,” he said.

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