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Rubio, Kaine Bill to Reauthorize North Korean Human Rights Act Passed Senate

Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine recently applauded the U.S. Senate’s unanimous passage of their North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2022. The Florida and Virginia Senators are prominent national figures in their respective parties, showing bipartisanship could still be alive at the U.S. Capitol.

The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. The bipartisan legislation responds to the ongoing human rights crisis occurring under the Kim Jong-un regime by reauthorizing the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 for an additional five years.

Specifically, the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act would:

  • Reauthorize humanitarian assistance, democracy programs and broadcasting until 2027;
  • Make technical changes to the bill to reflect the fact that the US Agency for Global Media replaced the Broadcasting Board of Governors;
  • Require a report from the administration, within 180 days, on progress towards appointing a Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights, which has remained vacant since 2017;
  • Require the State Department to expand efforts to increase North Korean refugees’ participation in U.S. and South Korean resettlement programs, including placing a refugee coordinator stationed in Asia and providing information on resettlement programs in information disseminated in North Korea;
  • Requires the administration to produce a report on humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people; and
  • Modify the North Korean Sanctions and Policy Act of 2016 to impose sanctions on foreign officials responsible for forcibly repatriating North Koreans back to North Korea, while exempting U.S. allies South Korea and Japan from this policy.

“The United States must always stand up against the poison of totalitarianism, which continues to inflict horrific suffering on the North Korean people. The House of Representatives should take up this bill immediately to provide much-needed relief to those who are forced to live under Kim’s cruel regime,” said Senator Rubio.

The North Korean Human Rights Act was first passed in 2004 following international outcry over the treatment of North Koreans under the regime of Kim Jong-il. Under Jong-il’s successor and son, Kim Jong-un, the human rights crisis has continued to unravel, as the regime limits food supplies, forces its citizens into slave labor, restricts outside media access, and seeks the forceful repatriation of North Korean refugees.

In response, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2022. The bipartisan bill, introduced by U.S. Senators Rubio and Kaine, would reauthorize the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 for five years past its expiration in September 2022. Senator Rubio led the successful effort to reauthorize the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2018.

“The ongoing abuses being committed by the North Korean regime are a direct affront to the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With today’s Senate passage of this bipartisan legislation, we reaffirm our support for the North Korean people, who continue to have their most basic freedoms denied,” Senator Kaine said last month.

S. 4216 would authorize the appropriation of $10 million each year over the 2023-2027 period for ongoing programs managed by the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Agency for Global Media to improve access to information in North Korea, promote democracy and human rights in that country, and provide humanitarian assistance to North Korean refugees. The bill also would authorize the Administration to sanction individuals who force North Korean refugees to return to North Korea. Lastly, S. 4216 would require reports to the Congress on the implementation of the bill and related matters.

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