President George W. Bush has signed a law aimed at promoting human rights and freedom in North Korea. The North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 allows the U.S. government to make grants to private, nonprofit groups to support programs promoting human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and the development of a market economy in North Korea. It also calls for the president to appoint a special envoy within the State Department for human rights in North Korea.
North Korea has long had one of the world's worst human rights records. Since 2001, the U.S. has designated North Korea as a country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act. An estimated two-hundred thousand political prisoners suffer in North Korean prison camps with conditions so severe that many of them never leave those camps. Many prisoners have reportedly died from disease and starvation. They are subjected to forced labor, beatings, torture, executions, and even lethal chemical experimentation.
Senator Sam Brownback was one of the sponsors of the North Korean Human Rights Act. He says that Communist North Korea is one of the world's worst violators of human rights:
"The regime strictly prohibits freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, and movement. Torture and execution, often in public, are regular tools of state control. Since the collapse of the centralized agricultural system in the 1990s, more than two-million North Koreans are estimated to have died of starvation and related diseases. That's nearly ten percent of the total North Korean population."
"In too many corners of the earth," said President George W. Bush, dictators deny citizens "the liberty and justice that are the birthright of all people." The U.S., he said, has "great sympathy and empathy for the North Korean people. . . . We want them to have freedom. And we will work in a peaceful way to achieve that objective."