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PSPD  l  People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Peace/Disarmament
  • 2004.08.05
  • 1907
The Korean Civil Society' Statement On the passage of "North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004" in the House of Representative

By MINBYUN(Lawyers for a Democratic Society), SARANGBANG Group for Human Rights, Good Friends, Center for Peace and Disarmament of the PSPD (People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy), Catholic Human Rights Committee in Korea, Democratic Legal Studies Association, The Human Rights Committee The National Council of Churches in Korea, Civil Network for A Peaceful Korea, Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights July 22, 2004

We recently received the news that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the North Korean Human Rights Acts of 2004 with a unanimous vote. We fully agree on the need for improving human rights, however, we do not agree on the basic understanding and approach that pressure and isolation can do so. We are concerned that the bill could negatively affect peace in the Korean peninsula rather than contribute to the improvement of the human rights condition in North Korea.

In Chapter 1 of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, it is stated that "it is the sense of Congress that the human rights of North Koreans should remain a key element in future negotiations between the United States, North Korea, and other concerned parties in Northeast Asia." However, such approach can jeopardize the Six-Way Talk on the North Korean nuclear issue and other negotiations that have already begun and can contribute to an environment conducive to the improvement of North Korean human rights.

It is also stipulated in the Act that "the President is authorized to provide grants to private, nonprofit organizations to support programs that promote human rights, democracy, rule of law, and the development of a market economy in North Korea." Human rights and democracy must be promoted in North Korea. However, it is up to North Korean people to decide on a political and economic system as the means to achieve human rights universally. An outsider's attempt to change the North Korean system may pick up the characteristic of interference with the domestic politics of a sovereign nation.

The continuation of radio broadcasting over the North Korean territory may not only cause unnecessary conflicts between North Korea and the United States but also directly conflict with the South-North's current reconciliation policy of refraining from condemnation and strengthening exchange and cooperation.

Chapter 2 of the Act conditions humanitarian assistance to North Korea upon the improvement of transparency, monitoring and access to vulnerable populations throughout North Korea. It also requires the United States to encourage other countries aiding North Korea to do the same. Not to mention, humanitarian aids must be distributed to the most vulnerable people through transparent procedure. However, such legally imposed condition should not function as an obstacle to the provision of the humanitarian aid to North Koreans who desperately need it.

Chapter 3 of the Act clarifies that the North Koreans are not barred from eligibility for refugee status or asylum in the United States on account of any legal right to citizenship they may enjoy under the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. It provides a legitimate basis for the U.S. to accept North Korean asylum seekers. However, it is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of Korea that deems a national of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as a national of the Republic of Korea We believe that the problem of protecting North Korean asylum seekers needs be addressed first by cooperation of the neighboring countries and ultimately by the expansion of North Korean humanitarian aid that can prevent the outflow at source.

We, the Korean Civil Society in advocacy of human rights, peace and unification, believe that any political objectives must be eliminated from the international efforts to improve the North Korean human rights conditions. Such efforts must be conducted peacefully and carefully to avoid creating any obstacle in the U.S.-North Korea negotiation table or peace in the Korean peninsula. Linking aid to human rights contradicts with the purpose of the Act : protection of the human rights of North Koreans. Guaranteeing North Koreans the right to basic living must be pursued through unconditional humanitarian aid. We firmly believe that such measures will promote political freedom of North Koreans in the long run. Encouraging the outflow of North Koreans may raise a suspicion of a hidden agenda, of inducing systemic implosion. A solution to the problem of North Korean asylum seekers requires humanitarian assistance and economic cooperation to eliminate food shortage and strengthen the weak economic infrastructure, the fundamental causes of the outflow. From this perspective, we oppose the enactment of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.

The enactment of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 is now subject to the decision of the Senate. The U.S. Congress must take heed of the positions held by the government and civil society organizations of South Korea, the U.S.'own ally and a major concerned party in a policy vis-a-vis North Korea. We urge the U.S. Congress to consider our perspectives in further deliberation of the Act.
Center for Peace and Disarmament
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