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Human Rights and Security Nexus Sparks Action on North Korea
The past weeks have seen a flurry of activity in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and human rights abuses. Notably, consensus seems to be building among international actors on the linkage between North Korea’s treatment of its own people and the security threat it poses to Asia and beyond.
- Congress passed a new North Korean sanctions bill with overwhelming bipartisan support that President Obama signed into law. The legislation ties sanctions to both the regime’s nuclear weapons program and its human rights abuses.
- The UN Security Council, with China’s cooperation, just imposed stricter sanctions on North Korea. These new sanctions target the North Korean elite along with revenue sources that fuel Pyongyang’s weapons program. Days earlier, a UN special rapporteur called on the body’s Human Rights Council to put DPRK leader Kim Jong Un on notice that he and other officials could be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
- South Korea passed its first ever North Korea Human Rights law. Historically, South Koreans have been deeply divided on the best path forward with North Korean. However, Pyongyang’s recent provocations spurred the law’s passage as it reinforces the ties between human rights and national security.
In late February, the Bush Institute cosponsored an event on North Korea Human Rights and the Security Nexus in Washington D.C. Amanda Schnetzer, Director of our Human Freedom initiative, opened the conference with a message from President Bush:
…The North Korean people are terrorized by fear, torture, deprivation, and political prison camps. Missile and weapons tests like those in recent weeks are meant to terrorize North Korea’s neighbors and the world. The two are closely connected.
Like many of you, the Bush Institute is focused on helping improve the lives of the North Korean people—both those who have escaped, and those who remain behind Pyongyang’s iron curtain. We believe that better integrating human rights issues with the mainstream security strategy is part of the answer is in our national interest. Addressing one of the greatest human tragedies and security threats of our time should unite us all.
For more information about the Bush Institute’s Freedom in North Korea initiative, please check out our call to action report, Light Through the Darkness, on improving the human condition in North Korea.
Ashley McConkey manages communications for the George W. Bush Presidential Center and is responsible for message development on behalf of the Economic Growth, Human Freedom and Military Service initiatives.
Before joining the Bush Center, McConkey worked in the communications and public policy arena in Austin, Texas for both non-profit and corporate entities. She also served as a Budget and Policy Adviser to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.
McConkey grew up in Greenville, Texas and moved to Austin to study Political Science at St. Edward’s University. She and her husband reside in Dallas.Full Bio
Christopher Walsh serves as Senior Program Manager for the Human Freedom and Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
Don’t Forget Human Rights When Dealing with North Korea
There has been a regrettable trend in U.S. foreign policy over the years to focus on the immediate security threat, at the expense of Pyongyang’s horrible treatment of its own people.
Growing Up As A North Korean Defector
Despite moving many times for safety and protection, North Korean defector Susie Seo made her education a top priority. She is now attending college in the U.S. and is hoping to work in cyber security when she graduates.
The Road to Freedom
Justin Seo, his father, father's friend, and his daughter walked through the Paektu Mountain to find freedom. It's an area not frequently traveled due to wild animals.