On July 18th, NKSC Seoul President Kang Cheol Hwan, NKSC US CEO Peter Lee, and NKSC Intern Calvin Elison attended three meetings on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and legislative aides from both parties to discuss how Congress can help NKSC’s mission. With legislative actions under way in both chambers, as well as several issues fresh in the news such as the death of Otto Warmbier and recent nuclear tests, these meetings fall under NKSC’s greater goals to accelerate people powered change in North Korea by providing a platform for North Korean voices.
In the morning, the delegation met with a staffer from Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) office to talk about, among other topics, Senate bill 1118 that would reauthorize the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, as well as add provisions for information dissemination efforts. These new provisions add congressional support and federal funding for programs that send USBs and other digital storage devices into North Korea to give DPRK citizens access to outside information.
Immediately after, Mr. Kang and company met with Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL). Rep. Yoho is the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, as well as the main sponsor for the House bill to authorize the North Korean Human Rights Act with similar additions. Rep. Yoho was excited to discuss the ways in which his committee could aid the cause of North Korean human rights. Mr. Kang and Rep. Yoho discussed China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees at length, as well as potential solutions to this problem. As the meeting came to a close, Mr. Lee requested that Rep. Yoho speak at NKSC’s fall conference tentatively scheduled for October 19th in DC, and the Congressman expressed enthusiasm about the idea, schedule permitting.
To close their day on Capitol Hill, Mr. Kang, Mr. Lee and Calvin met with Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and her staffer Jeff Hayter. Mr. Kang discussed his life with Rep. Gabbard as well as the obstacles that the U.S. government faces in dealing with North Korean human rights abuses, such as China’s economic power and partnership with the DPRK, negotiating through international institutions, and partisanship.
Overall, the meetings were yet another step forward for NKSC in building relationships with congressional offices that directly affect the lives of North Koreans and North Korean refugees. Reflecting on the day of meetings, Mr. Kang stated, “It is time to take concrete measures and actions for the dissolution of the Kim Jong Un regime beyond the aspect of economic sanctions.”