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U.S. Refugee Decision Sets Precedent

Posted May. 12, 2006 02:59,   


A high-level official in the U.S. Department of Defense stated on May 10, “by granting refugee status to these six people, the American refugee system has officially been launched, and there are more aid programs directed to mass refugees.”

Ellen Sauerbrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees, Population, and Migration, was thus quoted by Korean reporters on May 10 at a International Relations Committee press conference of the House of Representatives.

On the number of additional people to enter into the United States with refugee status, however, she said, “It is hard to predict, as we would have to work with governments from third countries or U.N. agencies.”

She added, “The United States will receive at least 25,000 people from Asia and Africa this year through the UNHCR.”

Having attended the hearing, Paul Rosenzweig, acting assistant secretary for policy development at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said, "The Asylum Division issued clarifying guidance that asylum officers shall not automatically treat a national of North Korea as also being a national of South Korea." Until now the U.S. administration saw the refugees as South Koreans, according to the South Korean Constitution, and did not grant them legal refugee status.

He added, “In order to distinguish between South Koreans and North Korean citizens, we set up a new nationality and country code entry system at the refugee management system in the refugee related department of the U.S. administration.”

In Washington this day, hearings and press conferences were held on North Korean human rights and refugees, reflecting the heightened level of interest in North Korean human rights issues.

Senator Sam Brownback, who led the establishment of the North Korean Human Rights Act, said at an outdoor press conference,” by accepting refugees, the U.S. has not negatively influenced the six-party talks but has served to induce North Korea to enter into talks.”

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said this day at a separate hearing at the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives that “where I think the Chinese are wrong is that they believe the status quo can hold…I don`t believe it can, in part because you`ve got an illegal regime that is living off of counterfeiting and narcotics.``

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com