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'North Korean Freedom Act' - A Prescription for Chaos
Interview with Yu Chong Ye, a North Korean human rights expert
Cheong Wook Sik (cnpk)     Print Article 
Published 2004-03-17 15:55 (KST)   
The North Korean Freedom Act, a 562 million dollar bill under consideration by the United States Congress, has been designed to bring an end to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction on the Korean peninsula, assist in the reunification of Korea under a democratic system of government, and improve human rights conditions in North Korea in accordance with United Nations conventions.

While this act appears to be an attempt to improve security on the Korean peninsula and human rights in North Korea, a closer look reveals that the bill could actually exacerbate the problems it purports to resolve.

The Civil Network for a Peaceful Korea (www.peacekorea.org), a South Korean NGO, interviewed Yu Chong Ye, a developmental sociology doctoral candidate at Cornell University and currently a visiting scholar at Ewha Women셲 University. She worked for the promotion of living conditions in the underdeveloped countries, including North Korea, for about twenty years. She has done extensive research and written a dissertation on the North Korean situation. The following are excerpts of that interview relating the North Korean Freedom Act - OhmyNews

© Cheong W.S
Your dissertation on the North Korean Freedom Act of 2003 asks, "Does the bill really intend to promote the well being of the North Korean people and strengthen the security of Korea, or does it potentially harm the North Koreans and escalate further the fear of military conflict in an already tense situation in Korea?" How would you answer this question?

Based on my research and the context and background of those involved in drafting the bill, I think it is pretty self evident that many of the groups and individuals who are behind are certainly people who are not really concerned exclusively with North Korean human rights. [A concern for human rights] may be part of it, as it should be part of everyone셲 concern, but the bigger part I, think, is really how they will use this to sort of pressure North Korea to do what the US wants North Korea to do.

The human rights issue is very important and I think North Korea human rights situation is at a very bad level - I think that there really is gross abuse that is taking place... so the human rights issue needs to be raised. Civil society in South Korea and elsewhere needs to talk about this, but not as a part of the US strategy against North Korea. That is what I am objecting to. [human rights] should not be politicized – the end goal should be human rights on its own accord.

You believe that there are better alternatives to the North Korea Freedom Act. Briefly, what are these alternatives and why are they better?

First I think the civil society in Korea has to build a discourse around human rights violations around Korea certainly there are issues with economic rights that are driving people to death from starvation and disease, driving people to leave their homeland and to become a refugee that is clearly a violation of human rights. There are different ways in which this can be solved, and that is to lift the sanctions against the North Korea.

But then there are these violations of individual rights such as a right to speech and freedom of movement, etc [These kinds of things] need to be looked at and discussed. Then [after deciding] what the facts are, what credible documentation there is, and how is it being described, South Korean civil society needs to come to a point where they understand and agree on certain things that civil society will not tolerate, and they need to criticize these things and call on the NK government to stop them.

You need to look at East and West Germany for many years prior to reunification, and what kinds of things were talked about and done that alleviated the suffering of groups and people in East Germany. These kinds of things can be studied and looked at to see what is appropriate for North and South interaction.

The groups that are using human rights issues in North Korea to bring down the North Korean regime may be able to do bring down the North Korean regime, but what are they going to do about the society then, are they going to be responsible for the well being of these people?

Do you believe the Freedom Act will pass?

I probably would say it this way, I don't even want to go there in thinking that it will pass but I have to work with the assumption it will pass, and that assumption is not so far fetched if you are to look at 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, as it was the same individuals who were involved. However, what people in Washington, NGO's, and others familiar with legislative process say is that it is likely to be divided into several pieces and that each piece will possibly tacked onto some whole different bill - so that in a sense it passes even though it could not pass [in tact]. That is much more difficult to stop and that is a real problem.

The other thing is that as a result of our work we can stop the act from passing, but unless there is some real alternative to deal with the North Korean human rights situation, this type of act will come up again and again. So this is the first time, but it will not be the last, so I think we have to be prepared to solve the problems over the long stretch.

What is the political climate like in South Korea with regard to the North Korean Freedom Act?

If I was the South Korean government looking at the North Korea Freedom Act, I would have an issue with the bill because when you look at it, there are three specific purposes that are outlined and two are directed towards the Korean peninsula, which includes North and South Korea, and the third is about human rights.

The first says that both North and South Korea cannot develop sell or transfer (WMD and related delivery systems). South Korea is an ally to the U.S. and the US cannot tell an ally what they should or should not do. This is a clear violation of a country's sovereignty.

The second purpose is again about the peninsula. It is the same to me. In other words, that there will be absorption of North Korea into the South Korean system If you were the South Korean government, what I am being told by the US is that we should absorb North Korea. Frankly, it is not the US government's position to care about the Korean government, and how they should reunify the country. It has a lot of implications to it. So this is supposed to be a human rights act, but of the purposes that are listed two of them have nothing to do with human rights, so you really begin to question the purpose of this act.

Several weeks ago, the EU publicly condemned NK human rights abuse and the United States State Department said it was "highly likely" that the North Korean government is involved in illegal narcotics trade. Do you feel that there is any significance in the timing of these accusations, namely in relationship to the six-party talks?

I think there is always timing in politics. I don't keep much time record of how things are said and what's said and when it's said, but when they release reports like that or press releases of what North Korea is [allegedly] doing illegally before the six-party talks or while negotiations are going on is certainly not going to help negotiations, it is only going to derail negotiations. One would then wonder; does the U.S. really want to negotiate? This is not a position that any party should take in a negotiation.
Do you think the "North Korea Human Rights Act" will harm stability in the region?  (2004-10-02 ~ 2004-12-24)
Yes, the U.S. is attempting to overthrow a sovereign nation's government.
No, alleviating the suffering of millions is the primary objective.
©2004 OhmyNews
젙슧떇 湲곗옄뒗 삤留덉씠돱뒪쓽 넻씪-룊솕臾몄젣 떞떦湲곗옄씠硫 <룊솕꽕듃썙겕(www.peacekorea.org)> 몴瑜 留↔퀬 엳뒿땲떎. 쁽옱뒗 誘멸뎅 議곗썙떛꽩 븰 媛앹썝뿰援ъ썝쑝濡 엳뒿땲떎.
  Linked Story - To Bush: Forget 'Regime Change' in Pyongyang...
  Linked Story - External Forces at Work in N. Koreans' Plight...

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