North Korea's new constitution calls for respecting human rights for the first time, a possible attempt by Pyongyang to fend off international criticism about its harsh treatment of citizens, South Korean officials and an analyst said Monday.
South Korea's Unification Ministry said the North's constitution, revised in April, says the state "respects and protects" human rights. The old version only said the state "defends and protects the interests" of people.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, says it is the first time the North's constitution has mentioned human rights.
"I think they created this clause, mindful of international criticism of their human rights record," Yang said. "It lacks details, such as how they will respect and protect human rights. I think it's just a formality."
North Korea has long been criticized for being one of the world's worst human rights abusers. It has been accused, among other things, of running a network of prison camps believed to hold hundreds of thousands of political detainees.
Pyongyang has rejected such criticism, denouncing it as part of a U.S. attempt to overthrow the regime.