South Korea's National Assembly has approved its first legislation on human rights in North Korea, in a move that is likely to enrage its northern rival.

A total of 212 lawmakers voted for the bill and 24 others abstained in the floor vote Wednesday. It becomes law when it is endorsed by the Cabinet Council, which is considered a formality.

Liberal lawmakers, who espouse reconciliation with North Korea, had shied away from harsh criticism of the North's rights record. But the main liberal opposition party eventually agreed on the law's passage amid deepening international criticism of North Korea following its recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

The legislation would establish a center tasked with collecting, archiving and publishing information about human rights in North Korea.