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Freedom House Hosts Conference on North Korean Human Rights Issue

Freedom House Hosts Conference on North Korean Human Rights Issue

Posted July. 20, 2005 03:14,   


A large-scale conference on human rights conditions in North Korea was held on July 19 at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C. by Freedom House, a major human rights organization in the U.S. Human rights groups, activists, and politicians from Korea and the U.S. participated in the event.

This event was the first in a series of three conferences to be held by Freedom House with a $1.97 million budget (about two billion won) assigned under the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, which was passed in October last year in the U.S. Congress. The second conference is scheduled to open in Seoul at the end of this year and the third event in Europe in spring of next year.

The conference began with the opening speech by Rep. Jim Leach, the chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. The event featured: “Seoul Train,” a documentary on the human rights situation of North Korean defectors staying in China and their escape to a third nation; a documentary on the abduction of Megumi Yokota, a Japanese woman, to the communist regime; and a testimony by the defectors.

Natan Sharansky, minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs and a former inmate in Soviet Gulag, author of “The Case for Democracy,” and also known for having significant influence on U.S. foreign policy, delivered a keynote speech in the conference. Public discussion between Senator Sam Brownback and Kang Chol-hwan, a North Korean defector currently working as a journalist in Chosun Ilbo in South Korea, drew great attention.

Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, considered attending the conference but is said to have not showed up, considering a possible impact on the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue which will resume within July.

The Associated Press reported on July 18 that Jay Lefkowitz, former White House advisor and the appointee for special envoy on human rights in North Korea, was scheduled to speak at the conference, but the schedule was cancelled. It said that President Bush wanted to make public the appointment after the six-party talks resume because of the significance of the meeting.

Soon-Taek Kwon maypole@donga.com