The world has known about their inhuman labor camps for years. So where's the outrage in the West?
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In spite of international attention on North Korea’s restrictive political regime, a top member of the Congressional human rights commission critiqued the Obama administration, saying it has not done enough to protect human rights in the country.
“A new North Korea framework is long overdue. Ignoring or downplaying the human rights situation for one more day is unconscionable,” said Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.)
The congressman is the so-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Wolf’s comments were given and submitted to the Congressional Record on July 17 in Washington, D.C.
The release of the comments coincided with the first Korean-American Meetup on Capitol Hill, in which members of the Korean-American community were able to discuss policy initiatives with Congressional representatives.
Wolf said that he hoped that “the abysmal human rights situation in North Korea will feature prominently among these policy priorities” discussed at the event.
The Department of State’s 2012 Human Rights Report found that The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea exhibited a lack of “respect for civil liberties” and a denial of “respect for the dignity of the person.”
These human rights abuses were demonstrated in a variety of abuses such as religious persecution, wrongful imprisonment and killing, disappearances, lack of fair trials, severe restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and no ability for the country’s citizens to change their government.
Similar findings were described by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2013 report and the U.S. International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, which both listed the country as a “Country of Particular Concern,” as well as other non-profit human rights groups.
These classifications have been met with heavy sanctions on North Korea.
In spite of these restrictions, Wolf criticized recent American administrations, saying that the United States has not given the human rights abuses occurring within North Korea enough attention.
Despite the “time and focus” granted to the abuses in the country, he said “you would never know that up to 200,000 people languish in a sophisticated and horrific prison camp system in North Korea reminiscent of the most brutal regimes throughout history.”
He described a “cruel and inhuman system of labor camps maintained by the regime” throughout the country, adding that the camps’ existence was confirmed via satellite “more than a decade ago.”
“And yet somehow, almost inexplicably, these horrific camps have failed to inspire collective outrage on the part of the West, and have been sidelined to the point of irrelevance in successive U.S. administrations’ dealings with North Korea, including the Obama Administration.”
The congressman granted that the United States has been involved in negotiations with North Korea over their civil rights abuses and burgeoning nuclear program, but criticized the efficacy, saying that “nothing has been achieved by these negotiations over the years” except for provocations by the North Korean government.
Wolf argued that stricter restrictions and more outspoken discussion on the international stage about North Korea’s human rights abuses would help to bring both more effective policy negotiations from around the world and the much needed-attention to the human rights struggle within the country.
“We must champion the rights of the people who wither under its oppression,” he urged.
Originally published by Catholic News Agency on July 18th, 2013.