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A Hearing of the East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service






SEN. BROWNBACK: Good afternoon. The hearing will come to order.

I'm hopeful that this hearing will begin to expose the true nature of the North Korean regime and its reputation as one of the worst violators of human rights in the world today. We'll hear testimony from the author of there recently released report "The Hidden Gulags: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps." This was sponsored by the U.S. Committee on Human Rights in North Korea.

We'll also see recently smuggled video footage of a labor camp in North Korea for minor offenders. I want to note, too, this is for minor offenders that we will see this footage.

Other witnesses will speak about the need for putting human rights on the agenda in any future dealings with North Korea and speak more generally about various policy options.

Before we get to the witnesses, I'd like to make some brief comments. First, promoting democracy and freedom in North Korea and ending its nuclear threat do not need to involve military action by the United States. We should explore every possible avenue for a peaceful and democratic resolution of the stalemate on the Korean peninsula. How we can peacefully achieve a democratic Korea is one of the issues we will explore at this hearing today.

Let me be clear about one thing. A resolution will not be on terms dictated by Kim Jong Il's regime. We should recall the way Ronald Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He called it for what it was, a brutal regime that repeatedly violated the rights of its citizens. He continued to deal with the Soviets out of necessity, but he never forgot for one moment the horrors of that regime and the violations of human rights occurring within its borders. He never forgot about the people of that country, yearning for freedom and for democracy, and neither should we.

Ronald Reagan did this, however, not as some flag-waving rally for human rights and democracy, but because he knew that profound historic changes were going to happen, not only in the Soviet Union but in other parts of Europe as well. He saw the signs of systems failure, and he understood that when people are not free to make their own decisions, a ruler's hold on power is tenuous.

In North Korea, we are seeing similar signs of systems failures. The regime is already collapsing. Free countries should not prop it up, but rather hasten its demise to the totalitarian junk heap of history.

Here are some of the signs of systems failures in North Korea. China has dispatched 150,000 troops to the border with North Korea and are expected to beef it up to upwards of half a million. This isn't simply a function of trying to cut off refugees desperately trying to escape and survive from the conditions in North Korea. Surely the local state security forces can deal with that.

Thousands of North Korean refugees are in hiding in northeast China, looking for every venue of escape. We witnessed a similar exodus in Eastern Europe as those totalitarian states were collapsing.

According to the report by the U.S. Committee on Human Rights in North Korea, hundreds of thousands have died of starvation and oppression, while others continue to languish in their gulags. We saw that in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union before its collapse.

As Dr. Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute testified before this committee and other Senate hearings, North Korea resorts to criminal activities to earn hard currency in order to keep its regimes on-its regime on life support.

With sovereignty and diplomatic privileges as its cover, North Korea is essentially a state-run, organized criminal enterprise that is engaged in drugs and arm trafficking-arms trafficking, counterfeiting and other activities across the globe. Given these signs, we must have the resolve to deal firmly with North Korea.

In this context, I'm in a process of preparing comprehensive legislation designed to promote freedom and democracy for the millions who languish in North Korea and to protect the hundreds of thousands of North Korea refugees that have already fled.

Let me make clear what this bill was not about. It's not about continuing to subsidize the North Korean regime so that it can build and maintain more gulags. The American people will not stand for that. Having said that, if the administration is able to force North Korea to halt its nuclear program, that is certainly a positive step forward. But North Korea will not get one cent from the United States or other supporters of human rights, I hope, unless it also agrees to make significant improvements to its human rights situation. There is no obligation for the United States and its allies to keep the regime on life support.

The American people will not tolerate food aid being skimmed by the North Korean regime for its army and the elites. We must be able to verify and monitor the distribution of food in all parts of North Korea. I'm hopeful that with the support of key members of the House and Senate, we will be able to introduce the bill before adjournment.

We have a building across from the Capitol here in Washington, D.C. called the Holocaust Museum. Thousands of survivors and their families are gathered this week to pay tribute to the proposition that the world will never forget what happened to the Jewish people during World War II. There is no question in my mind that had Congress held hearings and made the effort to speak the truth about the Nazi regime in 1943, many lives would have been saved.

There's another message that the Holocaust Museum represents. It also stands for the proposition that we will not remain silent in the face of the kind of horrors that are occurring on a daily basis in North Korea.

What you're about to see has been going on for 50 years, since the end of the Korean conflict. It's about time such behavior comes to an end. Unless we are willing to speak out about the evils of the North Korean regime, we may, in the words of George Santayana, be condemned to repeat history.

Our first witness, Mr. David Hawk, is a human rights investigator and advocate.

His work for the United Nations and other organizations include the Khmer Rouge genocide, the Rwanda massacres-and the Rwanda massacres. Recently he has consulted for the land mine survivors network on humanitarian assistance projects in Cambodia and Vietnam. Mr. Hawk, I look forward to your testimony. And at the conclusion of your testimony we'll have a short video presentation which was previously shown by Tokyo Broadcasting Service, who owns its copyrights. And we will see that at the end of this testimony.

Mr. Hawk, I'm delighted to have you here today. I look forward to your testimony and your explaining the photographs that you have in front of us as well.


SEN. BROWNBACK: Thank you, Mr. Hawk. I have looked over your report-a summary of it, and it's, you know, quite clear and explicit and quite condemning of what's taking place in North Korea.

I wonder, would you give me a couple of minutes and come around and point to these various pictures and hold them up and say, "Here is what's in this one"? I didn't ask you to do that ahead of time, but you've got a number of these satellite pictures, and these are all from commercial entities, as I understand, from what you've said. And just go around and spend a moment, if you could, on each of them, identifying them.

MR. HAWK: All right. So, this is a commercial satellite photograph of the entire Korean peninsula, with the selected prison camp locations of the former prisoners who were interviewed in the report. There are many additional prison camps. These are only the prison camps for which we had former prisoners or guards who I was able to interview who could identify the locations of the camps. And their locations are put in this satellite photo by the coordinates of longitude and latitude. So, they're quite accurate places.

This is a partial interview of the kwan-li-so political penal- labor colony, called Yodok. And as you can see, this is primarily an agricultural prison labor farm in which various crops are grown in the valleys in between the mountain areas. This is where a fellow named Kang Chol Hwan was imprisoned at from age nine to 19, because of the -- (word inaudible) -- political -- (word inaudible) -- his grandfather made.

But these-you get a sense of the sprawling nature of these prison camps. They're 40 miles long by 20 miles wide. So they're huge areas that are cordoned off and guarded. And you have some sections that are for political prisoners, and you have other sections isolated from the political prisoners for the families of the political prisoners. This-and in the report, each of these red boxes in the report there's a detail of the photograph with the identification of various places. For instance, we were able to find where they were living, their dormitories, their cooking and housing units. They were able to find their work sites. And they were able to find the offices of the prison camp, and execution and punishment sites in the photographs.

This is a partial overview of Camp Number 14, which is on this side of the Taedong River, and Camp Number 18, which is on this side of the Taedong River. Fourteen is for perceived political wrongdoers, political prisoners; 18 is for the families of the people over here. This is a coal mine. This -- 14 and 18 are described in the report. This is where Kim Yong, who is currently actually studying theology in Los Angeles, this is where he escaped from. He was able to-close up to identify the coal mine where he worked over here, and he was transferred over here. And he worked in the coal trolley. And in the detailed shots you can see the tracks where the coal that was produced here was shipped to a local power plant about 20 kilometers away. He escaped by hiding in the coal trolley. His job had been to repair the coal trolley. He jumped into one. And that's how he escaped the camp. And then you have various-these are details -- (pause) -- of the camp, with little-the various sections of -- (off mike).

This is the entrance to the coal mine where Kim Yong did prison labor for three years as a coal miner. This one-this one has-in another section camp, inside his house, he was able to identify the prison dorm where he was held.

And the one over here, which is another detail of Camp 14, is the -- (pause for technical adjustments) -- has in it down here the prison execution site, where they have public executions and hangings for people who violated the prison rules, prison camp rules, or else were caught trying to escape. And the-reasonably enough, the execution site is right near the firing range, where the guards practice their rifle shooting.

And then this one I referred to earlier, is the (kyo-hwa-so ?), where Soon Ok Lee and other woman who was interviewed for the report, who was arrested because she was overheard singing South Korean pop songs-this is one of the camps. It's sort of like a large penitentiary. And they-the core of which is a textile factory and a shoe factory, where the women-this is the (place ?) for women prisoners, mixed criminal and political, where they produce textiles for export. When Soon Ok Lee was there, they were exporting to Japan, France and into Russia various textiles made by prison slave labor at the Kechong (sp) kyo-hwa-so.

If you look closely, you can see the wall that surrounds the perimeter, just as she describes in her book. And you can see the guard towers along the walls and the various (places for supplies ?) and for the factories, the shoes and the garment workers.

And there are also-when I interviewed people in the provincial detention centers, the jib-kyul-so, which is where the repatriated North Koreans are sent, the prisoners described the-and drew little sketches that identified the placement in the adjacent or interior clinics, where forced abortions took place or where the birthing rooms were, where the babies afterwards were suffocated. And several months after we had those sketches, we were able to get the satellite photographs of the town, and the women and the men from the jib-kyul- so were able to find in a large satellite photograph of the town-after several tries, honed it down and they can find the buildings in the small detention facility.

And you can see that they correspond to the sketches. So you can see the birthing rooms, and you can also see the storage rooms where, according to the testimony of former prisoners, the suffocated fetuses were kept prior to -- (off mike).

SEN. BROWNBACK: Thank you, Mr. Hawk. That's very graphic and specific.

We will now have the video presentation. And I believe rather than Mr. Hawk, Pastor Shin was going to narrate us through this video presentation. So we would like to have Pastor Shin, if you could come forward-has worked a great deal on human rights in the-in this. And I would note to people that this is-previously shown by Tokyo Broadcasting Service. They own the copyrights to this. This is, I am told, of a misdemeanor camp, so this would be the most minor of offenses type of prison camp. And let's go ahead and start with that.

And Mr. Shin, as you see-Mr. Douglas Shin, as you see to jump in here and explain, please do so.

MR. SHIN: Okay. Before we start the video, I would like to add some comments. As Mr. Hawk has explained, there are three tiers in the North Korean penal system. The lowest level is the kotaku (ph) or labor training camp, the image of which we are about to see. Kotaku (ph) is, by the way, the Russian word for labor training camp. Kotaku (ph) is only for the smallest of crimes, usually misdemeanor. Sentencing is usually up to one year. There are over 200 of these kotaku (ph), one in each county of North Korea.

At great risk to himself, the videographer who has taken these images has provided the first-ever video of a labor training camp of North Korea. These images were first aired in Tokyo on TBS, and as I understand it, was also shown by Reuters. My understanding is that these videos were not shown in South Korea, although there were press reports about them. This would be the first time that these videos are being shown in the United States. As I understand it from my sources, all the video clips are from a labor training camp in Onsong County's ro-dong-dan-ryeon-dae, which is the official Korean term for labor training camp. This is the northern-most province of North Korea, right on the Chinese border.

So we would like to start with the first clip.

The people you see sitting on the left are very likely former refugees who have been forcefully returned from China. Ordinary refugees who fled China and are rounded up and sent back to North Korea are sentenced to the equivalent of a misdemeanor and are sent to a kotaku (ph) like this.

If a former refugee is determined to have dealt with missionaries in China or even tried to flee to South Korea or elsewhere, the sentence is seven years to life in either a penitentiary-that is, kyo-hwa-so-or a political prisoners camp-that is, kwan-li-so.

And second clip, please.

(Video is shown.)

They are saying "Giddyup!, giddyup!" in Korean-"Yong-cha (ph)!, yong-cha (ph)!" This is a video of kotaku (ph) workers moving a train car, presumably after having loaded it. Inmates are forced to move the train car, as there is no fuel to start the engine and work it. Please notice that there are women pushing the car, as well.

And the third one, please?

Okay. Here, you see kotaku (ph) workers removing wood and building a new roof within the camp grounds. You see the structure that is not quite completed yet? There's a soldier right in the middle ground. Okay. Please note woman and children-women and children are also working in this camp.

And the fourth one.

This is simply a video of detainees lined up probably for a meal, because they don't have tools at hand.

(Video is shown.)

The narration goes: kotaku (ph) inmates kind of whispering to the camera.

And the final and fifth one, please.

Here you see inmates lined up to march -- (pauses). Yeah.

Here you see inmates lined up to march with tools in hand. They are most likely finishing a job and heading back to the dormitory. The first part of the conversation goes-"They've got to be kotaku (ph) inmates." And the other interlocutor, probably standing next to the videographer, goes, "Yeah, they have to be-they ought to be on their way to the dormitory at the end of the day."

Okay. Thank you very much.

SEN. BROWNBACK: Thank you very much, Mr. Shin, Mr. Douglas Shin, for sharing those with us, and the first-ever, as I understand, showing of those -- (inaudible) -- misdemeanor labor camps.

I ask now to be joined at the table-Ambassador Palmer and Professor Mochizuki to join Mr. Hawk. In the interest of time, I'd like to ask everyone, if they could, to summarize their comments.bassador Palmer has served in policy positions in the State Department and the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and first Bush administrations, including launching the National Endowment for Democracy. He organized and participated in the first Reagan- Gorbachev summit at the State Department's-as the State Department's top criminologist. And as the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, he helped persuade its last dictator to leave power. Ambassador Palmer is the author of a fabulous new book that I'll put a plug in for here, "Breaking the Real Axis of Evil."bassador Palmer, delighted to have you here.

Mike Mochizuki is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. I hope I got somewhere close to the correct pronunciation. Together with his colleague at the Brookings Institute, Michael O'Hanlon, Professor Mochizuki is the co-author of "The Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: How to Deal with a Nuclear North Korea."

Mr. O'Hanlon had a scheduling conflict, but his testimony will be made a part of the record.

Mr. Palmer, you're certainly no stranger to these neighborhoods. I would look forward-and provide the floor to you.


SEN. BROWNBACK: Thank you very much, Professor.

And I want to thank all the panelists. First, Mr. Hawk, this is the best detail description and the marrying together that I've seen of the stories that I've heard, the interviews that I've done with a number of refugees coming out of North Korea, and then matching them with the satellite photography. I think it's an excellent contribution that you're making to the debate of something the North Koreans have denied for years as they just say, "Well, it doesn't exist." And you hear all this testimony coming out from people, and then marrying the two up I think is a great contribution. I deeply appreciate that.

Why is it taking us so long in the international community to recognize the size and scale of this horrific gulag system and deaths that are taking place in North Korea? In this day and age, it seems like this is something we should be on top of immediately. Why is it taking us so long?

MR. HAWK: I think primarily because of the extreme isolation of North Korea. Up until two years ago, they had relations-diplomatic relations only with Soviet-bloc countries. It's only within the last two years that you have the EU establishing diplomatic relations, and the kind of talks that that allows. And it's only within the last two years that you have a large enough body of former refugees, including former prisoners, who have obtained asylum in South Korea so that you have a critical mass there now of testimony and of evidence.

Previously, you had Kang Chol-hwan's prison memoirs of Yodok, and you had Soon Ok Lee's book about the "Eyes of the Tailless Animals" of her prison memoirs at Kaechon kyo-hwa-so. And you had a few other people who had given interviews in Seoul and also in Washington. But it's really only within the last two years that you have enough-a critical mass of people who have obtained asylum and, you know, they escape into China and have to make their way to Mongolia or Hong Kong, most of them all the way down through southern China, down through Burma, Vietnam or Laos into Cambodia into Thailand, where they fly from Bangkok to Seoul and seek asylum in South Korea.

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