SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- Seoul hailed a United Nations report accusing North Korea of grave human rights violations Monday, saying South Korea will strengthen cooperation with the international community to help improve the human rights situation in the communist country.
Wrapping up its year-long investigation, the U.N. Committee of Inquiry (COI) said in its final report released in Geneva that the North has committed organized, extensive and grave crimes against humanity, citing the country's keeping of political prison camps, abducting foreigners and forcing people to starvation all conducted to keep its regime afloat.
The U.N. panel's report also includes its recommendation to the U.N. to refer the case to the International Criminal Court, setting the stage for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to be charged with crimes against humanity.
"The (South Korean) government expects the COI report, which includes results of in-depth investigation showing the seriousness of the North Korean human rights situation, will raise the international community's awareness," Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that "Seoul appreciates the proactive efforts the COI has made so far."
South Korea has been supporting the COI's investigation activities and plans to step up collaboration with the international community in order to help improve the human rights situation in North Korea, the statement also said.
The COI was established in last March under a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution as the international community's first attempt to launch an official investigative mission into widely condemned human rights abuses in North Korea.
As part of the investigation, the three-member COI team was in Seoul last August and interviewed former North Korean political prisoners who defected to South Korea in week-long hearings in which the defectors testified about brutal tortures, sexual abuses and food shortages in the prison camps.
The communist country has long been labeled one of the worst human rights abusers in the world, ranging from holding up to 200,000 North Koreans in political prison camps to torturing the prisoners.
Pyongyang, however, has flatly denied the accusations, calling them a U.S.-led propaganda to topple its regime.
China said earlier in the day it will not support the U.S. plan to bring the case to the international court, with Beijing's potential use of a veto predicted to put a major hurdle in the plan.
The report will be officially submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council on March 17.
North Korea balked at the report in a statement sent to Reuters, saying it will strongly respond to any attempts or pressures made on the pretext of human rights protection to topple its regime. In the statement, the communist country once again refuted the cases of human rights abuses mentioned in the report.