The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan congressional caucus, will hold a hearing on South Korea’s ban on flying anti-Pyongyang leaflets into North Korea on Thursday (local time). The news has caught international attention since it is very unusual for the U.S. Congress to hold a hearing on human rights issues of its allies and the hearing is being held on the birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. Experts say the hearing is a message of warning about human rights violations sent to both Koreas from the Biden administration, which puts human rights at the heart of its foreign policy.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission said on its website on Thursday (local time) that it will hold a hearing titled “Civil and political rights in the Republic of Korea: Implications for human rights on the Peninsula” at 10 a.m. on April 15. Witnesses of the hearing include those who have been critical of the South Korean government’s passive attitude towards North Korean human rights issues, such as former South Korean ambassador to Russia Lee In-ho, North Korea Freedom Coalition Chairman Suzanne Scholte, Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch John Sifton, expert on North Korea and China Gordon Chang, and Senior Research Fellow for East Asia Jessica Lee.
“For decades, credible nonpartisan observers have raised concerns about some measures taken by governments of all political stripes in Seoul that appear to restrict certain civil and political rights,” said the bipartisan caucus, pointing out the anti-leaflet law could interfere with efforts to promote human rights in North Korea. It went on to stress that the hearing will deal with the role of the right to freedom of expression in the broader context of inter-Korean, U.S.-ROK relations, and U.S.-DPRK relations. The anti-leaflet law passed by the South Korean National Assembly last December prohibits broadcasting through loudspeakers and the flying of anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.
Ji-Sun Choi firstname.lastname@example.org