Press Release

May 12, 2017
Cardin, Rubio, Colleagues Introduce North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act, legislation that would update and reauthorize the 2004 law promoting human rights and freedom in North Korea.

“The human rights situation in North Korea is horrific,” said Senator Rubio, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on human rights. “The regime systematically and ruthlessly terrorizes its own citizens, denying them the most basic freedoms. The government operates a network of political prisoner camps. Defectors report extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrest, torture, forced starvation and sexual violence against women. The United States has a moral obligation and diplomatic imperative to prioritize human rights and access to information for the North Korean people, and this bipartisan legislation would do just that.”

“North Korea has many problems beyond its dangerous nuclear program, namely that it ranks at the bottom of the world in its respect for human rights and the development of its own people,” said Senator Cardin, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The United States must always be mindful that with every approach we take toward their repressive regime, we should focus on the people of North Korea, which gives us the greatest chance for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region. To that end, I’m pleased to join Senator Rubio and my colleagues in reauthorizing The North Korean Human Rights Act.”

“North Korea’s belligerent nuclear weapons and missile tests in defiance of United States and United Nations sanctions are well known, but we cannot lose sight that Kim Jong Un’s regime is also one of the world’s foremost abusers of human rights,” said Senator Gardner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity. “The North Koreans imprison and torture as many as 200,000 men, women, and children in political prison camps and prohibit any dissenters from speaking out against the regime. While we must continue to pressure Kim Jong Un to abandon the country’s nuclear program, we must also use necessary sanctions to punish North Korea for these atrocious human rights abuses. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to apply pressure to the maniac in Pyongyang and help bring relief to the hundreds of thousands of innocent North Korean citizens suffering under this brutal dictator.” 

“Kim Jong-un has consolidated his grip on power and seems determined to proceed on a course of strengthening his military while doubling down on the humanitarian crisis that is part of the ongoing story of this bizarre and brutal regime,” said Senator Menendez. “With the reported exterminations, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, and unspeakable sexual violence, the Kim family’s political dynasty continue to wreak unfettered havoc on their own people. So as the international community rightfully focuses on North Korea’s growing threat to security with its nuclear and missile program, this bipartisan legislation also seeks to elevate the fundamental role that human rights and human dignity must play in our foreign policy. Ultimately, leaders and nations who respect these basic values prove more stable actors on the international stage.”

“The North Korean regime is a modern-day reign of terror. It not only threatens the lives of Americans, South Koreans, and Japanese, but it also terrorizes its own people. As with any totalitarian regime, however, it fears the truth,” said Senator Cruz. “The reauthorization of the North Korean Human Rights Act empowers the United States to shine a light into that darkened regime with the truth of liberty and the friendship that Americans feel for the people of North Korea. Moreover, these programs provide us with avenues to reach North Koreans and shape their perceptions of us. These are nonnegotiable elements of our broader North Korean strategy, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill and judiciously implement it.”