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Public Statements

North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ROYCE. I thank the gentlelady for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, this is the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011, and I want to thank Chairman Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Member Berman for their support of this bill, and also I think we should thank the numerous Korean American organizations from around this country that tirelessly advocated on behalf of its passage. They are the groups that originally came to me with the heart-wrenching problem that these orphans face, and they suggested an idea for a solution. I would like to recognize the Defense Forum Foundation, the North Korea Freedom Coalition, the Korean Church Coalition for North Korea Freedom, the Korean American Coalition, the Korean Churches for Community Development, the 300 Pastoral Coalition, and the 318 Partners. These are the groups that suggested that with a lot of hard work we might get this legislation through. They put through countless phone calls and meetings and rallies up here on Capitol Hill and I think really helped generate the widespread support that this bill has today.

Of course, the bill stems from the problem that for over 50 years North Korea has been one of the world's most repressive regimes. Every imaginable freedom that we enjoy here--speech or assembly or association or worship, and actually oddly enough, even the right to smile--is denied in North Korea by one statute or another. Meanwhile, the regime's elites live in luxury. Of course, the people, especially in the rural areas of North Korea, starve.

It is little wonder why tens of thousands of North Koreans, many of them women and children, flee to China. For many, it's a last resort. It's a final chance to avoid starvation for those children and avoid unspeakable oppression. Yet that choice is not always an easy one. That path to freedom is very perilous. Those fleeing North Korea often make their journey during the winter, and they cross over that Tumen River as it's frozen. Those temperatures there are subzero, and the terrain is treacherous. It is an obstacle course of checkpoints and of informants, and they make that a very dangerous journey. Sadly, but not surprisingly, many refugees succumb to the elements. There are many bodies frozen along that bank.

Those that survive also face dangers from human traffickers. As one dissident told National Geographic, crossing the Tumen was easy compared to what happened next as she was tricked into getting into a car that belonged to a sex trafficker. For the next year, she remained locked in a room, forced into selling her body. The result of all of this is that many North Korean orphans are left in China. Worse yet, they are stateless and they are without identification. Estimates show that thousands of children are left stateless in the border region between North Korea and China, and there they suffer. If they're sent back to North Korea, they suffer unimaginably.

Mr. Speaker, this is why we need to pass this legislation. This bill is a good first step in responding to this human rights crisis. Specifically, this bill would have the State Department develop a strategy for assisting stateless children from North Korea.

While many American families would welcome the opportunity to adopt a North Korean orphan, many hurdles remain. For example, children must certify that they have lost their parents or legal guardians and that they have absolutely no one to rely on. A child orphan in North Korea would have a very hard time proving that attestation.

Most of these children have great difficulty proving this to their own understanding, and they have no death certificate of parents, and many have no proof that they truly are orphans. By passing this bill, we will be taking an important step towards solving these problems.

We are not committing to any particular policies, but we are committing to doing what we can to help these defenseless children. We are trying to create a win/win for these desperate young ones, orphans living in deplorable conditions and their potential new families.

Again, I thank you, Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, I thank you for your support, and we thank the numerous American Korean organizations, and we thank Ranking Member Berman for all of this help. I urge my colleagues to support this important bill.

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