Tuesday, June 03, 2008

North Korean Refugee Trail of Shame

As North Korea steps closer to a second great famine and North Koreans continue to endure the depredations of the repressive regime that rules over them, an exodus of refugees slips out of the country. The twin imperatives of food and freedom (much more of the former, at least initially) are driving them hundreds or thousands of kilometers from their homes.

While U.S. President George W. Bush has given speeches on the plight of the North Korean people, his concern for them has clearly taken a back seat to his desire to score a diplomatic success, however fleeting, in the ongoing nuclear talks with Pyongyang. Jay Lefkowitz, U.S. Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea … was sternly rebuked by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who told reporters ``[Lefkowitz is] … doesn't know what's going on in the six-party talks and he certainly has no say in the six-party talks.''

Lefkowitz ... and his portfolio have become ghettoized in the State Department.

The North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 mandates that the United States accept North Korean refugees. Although there are up to 300,000 North Korean refugees in hiding, including hundreds in Southeast Asia, the U.S. has only admitted a few dozen. Of the estimated 150,000 refugees from around the world United States has resettled since 2004, fewer than 50 have come from North Korea.

[Excerpt of an editorial by Andy Jackson, The Korea Times]

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