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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights (IPCNKR)

by | March 1st, 2012 | 07:00 am
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I recently had the pleasure of talking to Ms. Young Kim, a senior staff member in Representative Ed Royce’s office. Congressman Royce sits on two Foreign Affairs subcommittees–he is chairman of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee and also sits on the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific—and has been extremely active on North Korea. He has done some things we cautiously endorse, such as an adoption initiative that could help bring in more refugees. But he was also behind an amendment banning food aid to North Korea that needlessly ties our hands on the issue.

But Royce has also been a moving force behind an international initiative we knew nothing about:  the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights. Such transnational coalitions provide an opportunity to exchange notes and can lead to the diffusion of policy ideas and even legislation.

The coalition was formed in 2003 by legislators from South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Mongolia, but now has 200 members from over 60 countries. The website maintains news stories on refugees. But of particular interest are updates on legislation from the member countries. Following the passage of the North Korean Human Rights act in the US (2004, re-authorized in 2008) Japan passed legislation in 2006 that rolled together abduction and human rights questions. Tessa Morris-Suzuki has an interesting article for the Asia-Pacific Journal online that talks about Japan’s “human rights nationalism”; Asia Times coverage of the legislation can be found here. We have provided the competing drafts of Korean legislation, which has been in limbo in the National Assembly due to predictable partisan differences. According to Ms. Young, Mongolia is also considering legislation.

A welcome addition would be a repository of such legislation as it is introduced and passed (as if Hill staffers don’t already have enough to do!). But more information on the North Korean refugee tragedy is better than less and the IPCNKR is clearly reaching countries that have not been involved in the issue in the past.