North Korea attacks South's human rights 'abuses' over sunken ferry disaster
A South Korean ferry sinks some 20 kilometres off the island of Byungpoong in Jindo in this South Korea Coast Guard photo from April 16, 2014 [AFP]

Under growing pressure at the United Nations over its human rights record, North Korea has accused rival South Korea of its own "crimes against humanity" over the Sewol ferry tragedy.

Just hours after a South Korean court on Tuesday sentenced the captain of the Sewol to 36 years, the North issued a report "indicting" the South for "hideous crimes" and rights abuses in its handling of the disaster that killed more than 300 people.

The report by Pyongyang's National Reunification Institute highlighted the failure of the captain and crew to evacuate passengers, and the time lag in getting coastguard rescue vessels to the scene.

It criticized the recovery effort and then attacked the personal behaviour of President Park Geun-Hye, whose approval ratings plunged in the wake of the tragedy.

During a state visit by U.S. President Barack Obama two weeks after the April 16 disaster, Park "kowtowed to him in gorgeous dress, utterly indifferent to the atmosphere of mourning," said the report carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

"This is, indeed, the height of shamelessness and an unpardonable mockery of human rights," it said.

"With no rhetoric can the South Korean authorities evade the responsibility for the ferry Sewol disaster," it added.

The attack came as North Korea faces a UN Security Council vote on a draft resolution blasting Pyongyang's human rights record and suggesting its leaders be referred to the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity charges.

The resolution followed a comprehensive UN inquiry, based on testimony of North Korean exiles, that detailed a vast network of prison camps and documented cases of torture, rape, murder and enslavement.