For many years, the bulk of media coverage and discussion of North Korea has focused on security issues and nuclear proliferation. Over time though, the human rights crisis in North Korea has increasingly stirred the attention of the international community and continues to gain momentum. In 2004, the U.S. government enacted the North Korean Human Rights Act, bringing the human rights aspect of North Korea into the spotlight. Section 101 of the Act states: “It is the sense of Congress that the human rights of North Koreans should remain a key element in future negotiations between the United States, North Korea, and other concerned parties in Northeast Asia.” In addition, the Act expresses that assistance should be linked to substantial progress in human rights in North Korea. Section 202(b)(2) specifies areas for progress:

basic human rights, including freedom of religion;

family reunification between North Koreans and their descendants and relatives in the U.S.;

information regarding Japanese and South Koreans abducted by North Korea and allowing them and their families to leave North Korea;

reform of the North Korean prison and labor camp system and allowing independent monitoring of it; and

decriminalization of political expression and activity. 1