[Congressional Record: July 15, 2002 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
Mr. BROWNBACK. I want to address the body quickly and briefly but
importantly on what is happening in North Korea and to North Korean
refugees coming out of that country.
Prior to the July 4th recess, my colleagues, Senator Kennedy and
Senator Allen, and I brought to light the plight of North Korean
refugees in a hearing before the Immigration Subcommittee. The hearing
capped a month of activity that involved the passage of resolution on
North Korean refugees in both the House and the Seante. Both
resolutions strongly urged the Chinese government not to repatriate
North Korean refugees back to North Korea. The House version passed by
406 to 0 and our resolution passed by unanimous consent on June 19,
At our hearing, we heard some very moving testimony from Ms. Lee
Soon-Ok, a North Korean defector who suffered more than five years in a
prison camp. We also heard from Ms. Helie Lee, a Korean American writer
whose memoir, In the Absence of the Sun, movingly highlighted a largely
hidden and painful secret shared by hundreds of thousands of Korean
Americans and millions of Koreans--more than 50 years of separation
among family members and loved ones since the outbreak of the Korean
War. Few other country and its people has suffered as much.
In addition, Mr. President, I urged Secretary Powell in both a formal
consultation and by correspondence on the need of our Department of
State to allow the processing of North Korean refugees together with
the Chinese government and the Beijing office of the United Nations
High Commissioner on Refugees.
The plight of North Korean refugees, of course, is merely a symptom
of a far more pressing issue--how to deal with one of the most
repressive and totalitarian states in the world, the isolated country
of North Korea ruled by one man, Kim Jong-il.
Although news regarding the efforts of many in the NGO community and
countless others working in North East China have been slowly filtering
into the West, the true nature of the North Korean regime is largely
hidden and inaccessible.
It was not until the showing of a dramatic video of five members of
the Han-mee family being forcibly removed from the Japanese consulate
in Beijing that the world began to pay attention. Since then, several
other asylum bids have drawn the attention of mainstream media,
including the horrifying story of baby-killings in North Korean prison
camps reported in the New York Times and based on the testimony of Ms.
Soon Ok Lee, who, as I indicated before, testified at our hearing.
In June 2002, ABC Nightime broadcast a three-part documentary of the
North Korean refugee in China by Ms. Kim Jung-eun whose schedule did
not permit her to testify before our committee. I was told by ABC News
staff that thousands of Americans have responded to the broadcast with
e-mails in disbelief and in rage against the North Korean regime. I
understand that the three programs drew high response from viewers.
It is estimated that between 2 to 3 million people died of starvation
and persecution in North Korea from 1995 through 1998 and that up to up
to 300,000 North Korean refugees in China are living a precarious and
dangerous life, hiding by day, begging by night, in an effort to avoid
being captured and repatriated back to North Korea by Chinese and North
Korean agents brazenly operating inside China
Of the 300,000 refugees, only 518 refugees successfully defected to
South Korea this year through June 2002, many of them by taking refuge
at foreign missions in Beijing and in Shenyang, China.
These actions by the Chinese are simply unacceptable, not only to
basic principles and tenets of international human rights, but also by
the fact that China is a signatory of the International Refugees
Convention. Hundreds of South Korean, Japanese and western NGO's are
working inside China to help the refugees, risking their lives and
capture by the Chinese police. A German doctor who also testified
before our committee worked in North Korea for a year and a half but
was evicted by the North Korean regime for disclosing the tragedies of
the NK people. People like him and others on the ground in China and
Korea have been some of the most vocal and active in their effort to
make the whole world aware of the conditions in North Korea and China.
Many NGO's have taken care of refugee families full-time with their own
I've met with many of these people, all of whom are now effectively
shut down from operating in China. And what they tell me over and over
is that they simply cannot not ignore what they saw. All of them said
to me that they could not look away and ignore the refugees, many of
whom were too scared to even beg for help.
These NGO's from South Korea, Japan, the U.S., France, and Germany,
first reported the tragedy of the North Koreans to the outside world.
These NGOs who are in the best position to know report that food aid
from South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, simply are not reaching the
dying people. As I mentioned in a previous statement, I believe it is
absolutely necessary to condition stringent monitoring of the delivery
of food aid by NGOs in an effort to determine that they are being
distributed appropriately. Much of this aid is apparently being
diverted to feed the million-plus North Korean army and to reward the
elites and the inner circle around Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. For this
reason, many well-respected NGOs, including Doctors Without Borders
have withdrawn from North Korea.
More troubling is that these NGO's have confirmed reports of more
than a dozen prison camps in North Korea, where the prisoners are
starved, forced to work at hard labor, and tortured to death.
Aside from the troubling refugee issue, we cannot forget that North
Korea is a threat to regional and global security. North Korea
continues its procurement of materials and components for its ballistic
missile programs from foreign sources, especially through North Korean
firms based in China. In addition, North Korea has become a ``secondary
supplier'' of missile technology and expertise to several countries in
the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. The CIA's 2001 report
assesses that North Korea is capable of producing and delivering via
missile warheads or other munitions a variety of chemical agents and
possibly some biological.
Furthermore, North Korea refuses to carry out its obligations under
the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, NPT and the 1994 Agreed Framework.
Initial IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, inspections and
intelligence reports in the early 1990s triggered concerns regarding a
clandestine nuclear weapons program. U.S. and foreign intelligence have
concluded that the DPRK government of North Korea probably has
sufficient plutonium for 1 to 5 nuclear weapons. Despite its
obligations under the NPT and the Agreed Framework, North Korea
continues to refuse inspections.
So while it would be reason enough to continue our pressure on North
Korea and China for the humanitarian violations alone, there are also
the pressing security threats that the current North Korean government
poses to U.S. interests which must be dealt with. While refugee and
nuclear weapons issues will necessitate very different responses--the
thing they share in common is the alarms they raise about ignoring the
North Korean problem in all its complexity.
While I am mindful of the diplomatic sensitivities regarding the need
to reach out to the North Korean regime, there comes a time when we
have to confront the truth and tell the truth. Moreover, reconciliation
efforts have yet to yield any results. There was
much hope after the historic meeting between President Kim Dae Jung and
Jong-il in June 2000, that such a gesture would bring about some
As the naval skirmish last month and the continuing problems with the
North Korean refugees show, the North Korean issue has simply worsened.
It's time for the North Korean regime to immediately allow
international monitoring of food aid into the country and to work with
the international NGO community to alleviate the suffering of its
people. That may at least stem the tide of refugees crossing over into
China and being prey to human traffickers and other difficulties faced
by refugees. But more fundamentally, the North regime itself must begin
to change itself and join the rest of the world in giving hope and
freedom to its people.
The U.S. can not afford to give into the slow-walking of reforms in
North Korea. For our own security, for the stability of the region and
for the sake of basic human rights--North Korea must remain a top
policy focus for U.S. foreign policy. We must keep clear and constant
pressure on NK and neighboring countries to bring new leadership into
being. This is a daunting task, but one that we can not afford to
We have significant refugee flight taking place out of North Korea.
We have had hearings in the Senate Immigration Committee on this
particular topic. We have a humanitarian crisis, probably the largest
in the world, that is taking place. We estimate that there are between
2 to 3 million people who have died of starvation and persecution in
North Korea from 1995 to 1998, in a 3-year time period--2 to 3 million
people. Nobody knows for sure because outside observers are not
This Nation is the most repressive, closed regime in the world today.
The world community is feeding those who are left in North Korea. The
United States and a number of other donating countries are feeding
about half of the population in North Korea. Much of the food aid we
are giving North Korea is not getting out to where it is needed. It is
still held by the leadership in that country.
We estimate that some 300,000 North Korean refugees are living in
China today in a precarious and dangerous lifestyle. They are hiding by
day and begging by night, trying to keep from being caught and sent
back into North Korea, which is what China does. If they catch people
from North Korea, they treat them as economic migrants and ship them
back into starvation, refugee camps, persecution, and probably death.
Of the 300,000 refugees in China, only 518 refugees have successfully
defected, gotten out of China and into South Korea or into another
third country--that is this year, through June of 2002. Many of them
have done it by taking refugee status at foreign missions in Beijing
and Shenyang, China. They have rushed embassies in those communities,
gotten inside, asked for political asylum, it has been granted, and
they passed to South Korea, generally through a third country--many
times through the Philippines. I say only 518 this year. If you look at
the history since the Korean conflict has ended--now 50 years ago--
there have been only several thousand who have defected from North
Korea into South Korea. Generally, each year, it has been a trickle--
maybe in the teens.
The North Korean regime has been able to keep people in a dogmatic
system, saying this regime is the best in the world and saying they are
being fed by the President and the leadership. Now that trickle is
beginning to really move. They believe it may be up to a thousand;
there may be a thousand or more defecting this year alone, which is a
massive number considering the history.
Mr. President, the issue I want to bring to light is the role of
China and the importance of China in allowing these people to live. If
China will allow these people to pass through, or if China will allow
the U.N. Commission, or the High Commission on Refugees to establish a
processing center to determine if these are people who need to be
allowed to pass into third countries, thousands if not millions of
people will not have to live in North Korea. If China does not, you are
going to see thousands, possibly millions more, die of starvation,
persecution, and other causes.
China has a choice. They will choose what the status is going to be,
whether these people will live or die. They need to be confronted
directly and asked to let these people live, to let them pass through.
Let them pass through to Mongolia, to South Korea, to other places; but
don't send them back. If they don't want to have them stay in China,
allow some place for them to go through, such as a refugee center. But,
China, make the choice. It is your responsibility and their blood that
will be on your call as to what you determine you are going to do in
this particular situation.
North Korea is a country that is difficult for us or anybody else in
the world to influence. China is the only country in the world that has
some influence on North Korea. So it is going to be their choice as to
whether these people will live or die.
North Korea needs to change its regime. I don't need to remind
Members of the Senate of the other problems we have with North Korea.
They are a supplier of weapons. North Korea has become a secondary
supplier of missile technology and expertise to several countries in
the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. The CIA's 2001 report
assesses that North Korea is capable of producing and delivering via
missile warheads, or other munitions, a variety of chemical agents and
possibly some biological agents as well.
Mr. President, I draw this to the attention of my colleagues because
we need to allow refugees to pass and come into the United States as
well. We will be bringing this issue up again in front of this body. I
hope we will put pressure on China, which doesn't have a good human
rights record, so that they can act to save people's lives--if they
will only allow these people to pass through.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon is recognized.
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