Obama signs N. Korean human rights act
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law legislation aimed at promoting human rights in North Korea, according to the White House.
The law, which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, extends until 2017 the authority of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. It is meant to put pressure on Pyongyang on the issues of human rights, democracy, refugee protection and freedom of information.
It is the legal ground for the U.S. government's financial support for radio stations broadcasting into North Korea and the appointment of a special envoy on the North's human rights issues.
The act also urges the U.S. government to demand China immediately halt its forcible repatriation of North Koreans, saying "there are genuine refugees among North Koreans fleeing into China who face severe punishments upon their forcible return."
Lawmakers emphasized the urgency of addressing human rights abuses by the secretive communist regime, armed with nuclear weapons and missiles.
“Even though North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is trying to present a fresh face to the world, he still maintains the same hellish gulag as his father and grandfather before him," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“A regime that abuses its own people with impunity cannot be trusted to negotiate honestly with the outside world. Stifling basic freedoms with death camps and firing squads undermines the long term stability of North Korea," she added. "By promoting human rights and transparency, this law is an important part of addressing the North Korean security threat.”