Friday, May 12, 2006

The highlighting of North Korean refugee problem

In April, U.S. President George W. Bush met families of North Korean refugee Kim Han-mi and Japanese kidnap victim Megumi Yokota in the White House. Megumi was 13 when North Koreans kidnapped her in 1977.

Kim was 2 years old when she was captured by Chinese authorities as she and her parents tried to run into the Japanese consulate in Shenyang, China, in 2002.

The meeting crowned a weeklong series of events dubbed North Korea Freedom Week, organized by the North Korea Freedom Coalition.

Tim Peters, project manager for Helping Hands, a Christian organization dedicated to advancing human rights in North Korea, said while the public attention North Korean human rights is getting is great, more concrete action has to accompany it.

The U.S. passed the North Korea Human Rights Act in 2004, but $24 million designated to help North Korean refugees has not materialized, Peters said.

Major powers, including the U.S., are too afraid of upsetting trade relations with China to take action necessary to help North Koreans, he said.

Peters said he was glad the congressional hearings brought attention to 82,000 South Korean citizens abducted in a three-month period in 1950, during the Korean War, adding that very little is heard from the South Korean government about the abductees.

“I am delighted that the Korean War Abductees Family Union is getting recognition and attention for the incredibly huge heartbreak they have been going through for decades,'' he said.

Peters said the U.S. State Department needed to “get out of neutral'' and allow large numbers of refugees to enter the country.

“Lip service is great, and jawboning is great, but the fact is that these people are being ground into the dirt,'' by both the North Korean and the Chinese governments, Peters said.

[Excerpt of article by Christopher Carpenter, The Korea Times]

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