Concentration camps, imprisonment and execution without trial, government-induced starvation, religious persecution?they all bring to mind the horrors of Nazi Germany. But these atrocities aren?t safely behind us. They?re taking place today?in North Korea.
As human-rights activists Kristin Wright and Rosemary Schindler have written,
During the last several years, an estimated 4 million people have died of government-induced starvation in North Korea. An additional 400,000 men, women, and children have perished in modern-day concentration camps where brutal medical experimentation, public executions, and gas chambers are commonplace. Thousands more are still imprisoned.
Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, a German physician who has worked in North Korea, described his experiences in a BreakPoint interview. He watched children dying of starvation and doctors trying to treat patients without supplies. The people, he said, ?were stunned; they were emotionally stunned. All those children, they can?t laugh anymore. They can?t cry anymore. There is no more emotional reaction because they are depressed. That was my main medical diagnosis. All those people in North Korea are depressed. They are full of fear.?
This is why it is such great news that Congress passed and the president signed legislation addressing the North Korean human rights problem. The North Korea Human Rights Act, which we in the Wilberforce Forum aggressively worked for, will authorize U.S. funding to provide aid to North Koreans and to human rights organizations working in the country. Wright and Schindler add that the bill?s provisions include ?transparency in the delivery of humanitarian aid, increased funding to protect vulnerable North Korean refugees, and expansion of Radio Free Asia broadcasting.?
In short, the authors write, the North Korea Human Rights Act will ?make human rights a priority in future negotiations with North Korea, while providing incentives to the regime to improve conditions in their country.?
As the Washington Post editorialized before the bill passed the Senate:
There have been some signs that North Korea, long held to be impervious to outside pressure, could be more vulnerable than was thought. A North Korean official recently agreed in principle to allow the British Foreign Office minister responsible for human rights to visit the country?and the British official is, he says, pushing for ?unfettered access? to North Korea?s notorious prison camps.
The success of the North Korea Human Rights Act is a tribute to the compassion and persistence of evangelical and Jewish groups who pushed hard to get it passed. Human rights activist Michael Horowitz told Christianity Today, ?It was the evangelical passion in the Wilberforce spirit that was the powerful animating force, the energizing force, around this issue. And once again, teaming very particularly with some key representatives in the Jewish community that was ultimately an irresistible combination.?
There are so many human-rights crises going on around the world that sometimes it?s overwhelming. We can easily get the feeling that there?s nothing much we can do to help the oppressed. But this new law proves that isn?t true; prayer and action really can make a difference. We need to let this victory inspire us to even greater efforts to defend the rights of the persecuted.
For further reading and information:
Please help support the work of the Wilberforce Forum and BreakPoint. Call 1-877-322-5527 to make a tax-deductible donation today. Or donate online .
Please mark your calendar for Wednesday, December 22, 2004, at 11:00 a.m. for protests being held around the United States and all over the world at all Chinese embassies and consulate offices to protest Chinese repatriations of North Korean refugees. (Those of us in the Washington, D.C., area, including North Korea Freedom Coalition, Wilberforce Forum, Defense Forum Foundation, and many others will be organizing a protest to be held in front of the Chinese embassy on 2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 22, 2004 at 11:00 a.m.) Learn more here (scroll down).
?North Korea Human Rights Act?A Celebration ,? Wilberforce Forum, 16 November 2004.
Stan Guthrie, ? North Korea Human Rights Act a ?Miracle,? ? interview with Michael Horowitz, Christianity Today, 4 October 2004.
Kristin Wright and Rosemary Schindler, ? Auschwitz Again? ? Insight on the News, 24 September 2004.
?House Passes North Korea Human Rights Bill ,? BreakPoint Online, July 2004.
Visit BreakPoint?s resource and fact page on North Korea . Also, you can learn more at Stand Today and the North Korea Freedom Coalition .
?North Korea Gesture ,? editorial, Washington Post, 23 September 2004.
Rowena Coetsee, ? Christian crusades for Jews ,? Contra Costa Times, 17 March 2003. (Registration required.)
Andrew Salmon, ? N. Korea is said to test poisons ,? International Herald Tribune, 24 November 2004.
Jeremy Kirk, ? N. Koreans detail deadly experiments on prisoners ,? Washington Times, 24 November 2004.
?Human Rights Advocacy in the Mainline Protestant Churches (2000-2003): A Critical Analysis ,? Institute on Religion and Democracy, 27 September 2004.
Roberta Cohen, ? Talking Human Rights With North Korea ,? Washington Post, 29 August 2004. (Reprinted by Brookings Institution.)
Rachel Zabarkes Friedman, ? North Korea 101 ,? National Review Online, 19 May 2004.
Kate Harris, ? Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying ,? BreakPoint WorldView, January/February 2004.
Allen Hertzke, Freeing God?s Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004). Order it from BreakPoint: 1-877-322-5527.
Gary Haugen, The Good News about Injustice (InterVarsity, 1999).