10-01-03 Interview with Congressman Ed Royce

Han: What do you think is the best way to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue?

Royce: I think the best way is to have the international community work together, as they are doing now, because Russia and China, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., the EU, all the parties that are interested in reducing the tensions should work in tandem. And at this point we have an agreement for those countries in the region, to sit down and try to work with the government in North Korea, in order to have North Korea cease its weapons programs. Especially of concern are the nuclear weapons that are being developed in North Korea.

And I think that there is a growing international awareness that this is destabilizing. I think there are concerns all over East Asia and South Asia that this might prompt an arms race as other nations in the region begin to feel ill at ease about the development of these weapons. And this does not occur in a vacuum. North Korea is also developing ICBMs. As a consequence, there is, I think, very real unanimity on the part of the rest of the international community, that we must all jointly bring pressure to bare and have North Korea understand that this is unacceptable.

Han: What do you have to say about the human rights situation North Korea?

Rep. Royce: The human rights situation in N. Korea is indeed a tragedy because I have talked to a number of young women and young men who have defected or have fled North Korea. In each of the cases where I have had conversations and listened to what people have had to say, they have said it was primarily because of the lack of rights and the fact that they were on the verge of starvation. In some cases, members of their family had starved to death. And so there was very little choice left, and of course, when they did flee they faced peril. A refugee in a circumstance like this has a very difficult set of conditions that he or she faces when they leave North Korea and try to make their way through China. It is very dangerous. They only undertake it because of the complete desperation and the fact that so many are on the verge of starvation. I think that some of the saddest human rights stories that I have heard are those about people trying to escape and what happened to some of their loved ones as a result, and also the stories about those who have been sent to work camps in North Korea.

The stories I have heard about the work camps in N. Korea remind me a great deal of the stories my father told me from World War II. My father was with the unit that went into Dachau, a concentration camp in Bavaria, Germany. He took photographs of what he saw, of people who had been starved to death, people who had been worked to death, prisoners in striped uniforms. And the conditions that I have heard about and the photographs that I have seen are very reminiscent of the stories he told me as a child. And I once got into his trunk that he brought back from the war and I snuck into that trunk and I saw the photographs. Those photographs of those starving women and children are like the photos I see from North Korea and I feel we have a personal responsibility to try to get the international community to become more aware about it, to speak about it more, and to try to do something to alleviate the suffering and get the government of North Korea to change the conditions there in North Korea.

Han: What kind of role do the Korean-Americans need to play?

Rep. Royce: The Korean-American community, especially through the churches, is a forum for informing the greater community across the United States about the plight of people in North Korea. Some of the pastors that I have talked to are involved in raising funds to help refugees to help heal the wounds, both the psychological wounds and the fact that many of the people that have escaped North Korea are so malnourished that in height, they are 6-8 inches less than a person from S. Korea, more importantly the problems with their internal organs and their bones. They have not had enough calcium, they have not had enough nourishment. So there is a great deal of work that goes on not only to care for those that are refugees, but also to try to spread the word about these conditions in hopes that we can rally other people who have concerns about human rights.