The North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004: More Rhetoric or a New U.S. Policy Statement?

By Boettcher, Jacques G. | North Korean Review, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

The North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004: More Rhetoric or a New U.S. Policy Statement?


Boettcher, Jacques G., North Korean Review


The Freedom Act

On November 20, 2003, Senators Evan Bayh and Sam Brownback introduced Senate Bill S.i903-the North Korean Freedom Act. One day later Representative Jim Leach (R-Iowa), Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) cosponsored virtually an identical Bill, H.R. 3573. The two bills differ only in that in the House version Line 8 on Page 7 addresses the responsibility of the United States to "...accept a limited number of refugees for domestic resettlement." The word "limited" was then changed to "credible." The House bill also gives North Koreans who have suffered at the hands of the North Korean government P2 status which would give them access to U.S. refugee processing without United Nations Human Rights Commission referral. The Bill increases the discretion of the Secretary of Home Security to temporarily parole North Koreans into the U.S. and it also incorporates the Hyde Bill-H.R. 367 that allows North Koreans to be treated as North Koreans and collectively as citizens of the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

The Freedom Act is basically divided into five sections with the actual text beginning with Section 3. This Section states that Congress has made the following "Findings." Not withstanding the fact that North Korea if not the most secretive and nontransparent entity in the world, it is probably at the top of the list. The outside world has virtually no contact with the inner workings of North Korea yet Congress finds that the economic base of North Korea is less than one half that of South Korea, that the health of the North Korean people is "significantly worse" than that of South Korea, that the life expectancy of North Korean babies is less than that of South Korean babies, that ten percent of North Korean children suffer from acute malnutrition, that the differences in economic performance and health of North Koreans as compared with South Koreans cannot be attributed to differences in land area or natural resources, and that the people of the Korean peninsula, are "...unjustly divided into two different countries one of which offers its citizens freedom while the other threatens them with imprisonment. starvation and death.

The "Findings" are that North Koreans are forbidden free speech, that the citizens are imprisoned in a series of prison and labor camps, that the economy and food production are mismanaged, that the national food system has been dismantled, and that the government is "...forbidding nearly all contact with the outside world."

They go on to note that there are between i00,000 and 300,000 North Korean refugees in China, that as many as 3,500,000 North Koreans have died from hunger in the past ten years, and that there are fewer than 3,000 North Korea refugees in South Korea. It does not give importance to the fact that in recent years the number of immigrants from the whole of Korea into the Unites States was limited to 3,500 persons. The Freedom Act does, however, propose that this limitation be lifted. The last clause of the "Findings" proposes that a "credible" number of refugees be admitted into the U.S. for domestic resettlement.

This is a considerable indictment of not only United States policy but also the policies of South Korea, China, and virtually the whole of the rest of the world. One would be extremely naïve to believe that there is not a problem with North Korea, but with these "Findings" the immediate question is-where is the documentation? If, as the Freedom Act indicates, the outside world is barred form North Korea, where does this data come from and under what circumstances?

North Korea, as of 2005, has a projected population of 22,9i2,i77 persons. If there are i00,000 to 300,000 North Koreans in China (the estimate in the Freedom Act), then approximately .004 percent to .0i percent of the population has gone to China. As the Freedom Act suggests it is possible that more North Koreans would go into China except for the threat of government reprisal. …

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