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Congressional Hearings
Religious Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights in Asia: Status of Implementation of the North Korean Human Rights Act
Date and Time:
June 02, 2011 10:00 am ~ June 02, 2011 12:00 pm
Location:
2172 Rayburn HOB
Speakers:
Chuck Downs
Participants:
Richard Gere, The Honorable Daniel Baer, The Honorable Joseph Yun, Aung Din, and Sophie Richardson

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Committee on Foreign Affairs U. S. House of Representatives 112th Congress

Chuck Downs: 

Thank you, Madam Chairman. It is a great pleasure for me to be here today. As some of you may recall, I spent a few years working on Capitol Hill for the Policy Committee. I have the greatest respect for this particular committee and everything you have done for North Korea.

I appear before you today as the executive director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and my statement goes through a number of issues relating to North Korea, all of which you are familiar with. But you have asked me to focus on the North Korean Human Rights Act today, which this committee sponsored in 2004, and Madam Chairwoman, you reauthorized as recently as 2008. It is a great piece of legislation, one that stands as a hallmark of the American people’s interest in the human rights of the people of North Korea. You are to be commented for that incredible achievement, and it gives us a roadmap from which we can look at a number of issues relating to North Korean human rights.

Bob King, whose excellent appearance today, his fine testimony, and his recent trip to North Korea, is a living example of how wise it was to create a position of Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights.

My organization had the pleasure of having as its distinguished co-chair for many years the late Congressman Stephen Solarz. I actually remember helping people prepare for testimony before Congressman Solarz when he was the chairman of one of your subcommittees.

His death is a great loss, as is that of former Congressman Lantos, he is with us in spirit today.

Two thousand and four was an extremely interesting year for human rights in North Korea. You will all immediately think that that was the year that the North Korean Human Rights Act was passed. I believe it was passed on July 21st of 2004. The same year, a former U.S. military defector, Charles Jenkins, managed to put the North Korean Government in a position of having to release him so that he could join with his wife, a former Japanese abductee, in Japan. He left North Korea on July 12th.

There was another big event also in July. Some 468 North Korean refugees who had made it through China, went through Yunnan Province, made it to Vietnam, and were sent back to South Korea with the approval of the government and the cooperation of the Government of Vietnam, socialist Vietnam, and the Government of the Republic of South Korea.

These actions, starting with the North Korean Human Rights Act, infuriated North Korea, and North Korea said in a formal statement issued by KCNA, the North Korean mouthpiece, ‘‘The DPRK will certainly make NGO organizations in some countries pay for the North Korean Human Rights Act.’’

On August 14, an American citizen, a young man from Utah, 24 years old, decided to travel by himself in Yunnan. He said goodbye to his friends who went back to Beijing, and he decided to go up the Leaping Tiger Gorge to a place called Zhongdian. He visited a restaurant there, a Korean restaurant, three times, and disappeared.

Our organization is looking very closely at the possibility that this American citizen, who spoke perfect Korean because he had been a Mormon missionary in Korea, and he spoke Chinese very well and, of course, he spoke English very well with a Midwestern standard dialect—he may, in fact, have been abducted by North Korea.

This would make the United States the 14th country to have lost an individual to North Korea. We quite often think that the Japanese were the only ones abducted from seaside resorts along the coast of Japan, but that is not, in fact, the case—the North Koreans have abducted four Lebanese, people from the Netherlands, people from France, and a Romanian.

The Romanian was lured to Hong Kong, found herself in Pyongyang. Malaysians and Singaporians were also lured to what they thought were job offers from people they thought were Japanese, and they ended up in Pyongyang. Many of these people were never heard from again except that they had made it into the notes of other abductees and other defectors and agents who eventually defected.

So thank you, Madam Chairwoman. I appreciate the opportunity to be here and to focus on the wide range of crimes that North Korea commits against human rights.

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