Friday, January 20, 2006

U.S. Lawmaker Urges Faster Implementation of North Korean Human Rights Act

Representative James Leach, chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, is urging the Bush administration to speed implementation of the North Korean Human Rights Act.

Leach said the United States has yet to receive a single application for refugee admission filed by a North Korean in the year since the measure became law. He said this situation was due to insufficient high-level diplomatic efforts.

"We are aware of cases where North Korean refugees hiding in third countries have approached U.S. diplomatic posts, unsuccessfully seeking assistance in relocating to the U.S. as refugees," he said. "Thus, an annual total of zero applications and zero admissions is clearly unacceptable."

The act requires the United States to share the burden of accepting North Korean refugees, Leach said, noting that the United States has the largest refugee resettlement program in the world and is home to the largest ethnic Korean population outside of Northeast Asia.

Among the witnesses who testified at a October 27 hearing on the subject were Kelu Chao, associate director for language programming at the Voice of America; Daniel Southerland, vice president for programming at Radio Free Asia; two North Korean refugees; and Tim Peters, the founder and director of a Christian relief project based in Seoul, South Korea, called Helping Hands Korea.

[Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:]

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