Thursday, July 24, 2008
Human-rights activists say U.S. President George W. Bush is turning his back on thousands of North Korean political prisoners with his plan to remove Kim Jong Il’s regime from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Taking the isolated communist nation off the list would eliminate a source of leverage to pressure Kim to dismantle prison camps where as many as 200,000 men, women and children are starved and tortured, the activists say.
“I felt betrayed when I heard the move by the U.S. president, though I knew the list refers to international terrorist acts,” said Hiroshi Kato, director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, a Tokyo-based group. “I don’t think the U.S. government knows enough about human-rights abuses and the gulags of North Korea.”
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The U.S. began the process of taking North Korea off the list June 26, after the country submitted an inventory of its nuclear materials and programs as part of a pledge to disable its weapons capability. The removal would take effect August 11, after a 45-day mandatory waiting period.
“Inspections of North Korea’s nuclear facilities have been a focus of attention,” Kang Chol Hwan, a former prisoner, said in April at the inaugural meeting of No Fence in North Korea, another Tokyo-based human-rights group. “What we want now is the inspection of North Korea’s political prison camps.”