Rep. Cliff Stearns

U.S. House of Representatives

Standing Up for a Free North Korea

March 14, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the North Korean regime has the worst human rights record in the world. Citizens are denied the most fundamental freedoms in classic Communist fashion, the economy results in shortages and an ever-present threat of starvation.

   Additionally, the regime has divided citizens into 51 classes. At least 7 million citizens, more than one-third of the population, are regarded as members of a hostile class, categorized as a potential threat to the existence of this regime. Members of this class are held in one of North Korea's 12 known prison camps. According to an MSNBC news report from January 2003, one of these prison camps is literally three times the size of Washington, DC. Meanwhile, the State Security Agency maintains at least 12 political prisons and about 30 forced labor and reeducation camps. There are also rumors of a series of underground camps. No one knows how many exist and, of course, how many prisoners are being held.

   These Stalinist-style gulags await any citizen, even children, who dare to commit such crimes as reading a foreign newspaper, singing a foreign pop song, listening to a foreign radio broadcast, or making statements that could be interpreted as an insult to the regime. The camps combine starvation, hard labor and brutal and irrational punishments. In one camp, former inmates claim prisoners work in such hard conditions that 20 to 25 percent of the 50,000 prisoners die every year.

   To leave North Korea without official permission is an act of treason. The Communist regime maintains a series of detention facilities along the border with the People's Republic of China for refugees forcibly returned. Pregnant women endure forced abortions or have their infants killed just after birth on the off chance that they were impregnated by Chinese men. Everyone is then interrogated to determine the extent of their exposure to the Free World, literally having the truth beaten out of them.

   This determines whether the regime sends these refugees to a gulag facing certain death or to a gulag facing likely death. The massive mechanistic prison camp system, combined with the outlawing of immigration, has led many to refer to North Korea as ``the world's largest prison camp.'' Jasper Becker, former Beijing bureau chief for the South China Morning Post, has estimated that Kim Jong Il and his father, Kim Il Sung, are responsible for killing over 7 million Koreans, 3 million civilians in the Korean war, 3 million by deliberate famine, and at least 1 million more political prisoners either executed or worked to death.

   Mr. Speaker, even worse is the Free World's help that props up this regime. Since 1995, the United States has provided over $1.1 billion, about 60 percent of it for food aid. About 40 percent was energy assistance through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Corporation, KEDO, a multilateral organization established in 1994 to provide energy aid in exchange for North Korea's pledge to halt its nuclear program. The Bush administration finally shut down the KEDO program earlier this year, long after North Korea had publicly violated the agreement that secured KEDO energy payments in the first place.

   Food aid to North Korea has also been an international humanitarian fraud. The Communist regime prevents donor agencies from operating in the country. The biggest suppliers of aid, China and South Korea, do little or no monitoring of what happens to the food that they supply to this country. The world's food and humanitarian aid rarely makes it to those suffering in North Korea. Instead, it has been used to feed Kim Jong Il's million-man army, almost 1 million people in his security forces, as a preference for the Communist Party elite. No such aid should be allowed against North Korea demonstrates tangible progress to freedom and transparency. Now some people worry about the risk of confronting and destabilizing a hostile and heavily armed power. These people should know that no good policy comes without risk.

   President Ronald Reagan did not coddle the Soviet Union, he did not offer to provide them the nuclear fuel they need to build nuclear weapons in the silly hope they would not build any. President Reagan took the struggle for freedom and democracy to the gates of the Soviet Union itself.

See the original in the Congressional Record on Pages H875 and H876

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