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Trump Urged to Make North Korean Human Rights a Priority


VOA Korean Service’s Cho Eunjung (left) interviews U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski.

The incoming U.S. government should make North Korean human rights a key part of its policy toward the communist country, a senior U.S. official says.

Tom Malinowski, the U.S. assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told VOA Wednesday he expects bipartisan support for the North Korean human rights issue during the Donald Trump administration.

“My advice is that any long-term solution to the security issues that have troubled us, coming from North Korea for many, many years, is not likely to come until the North Korean people have the power to shape the future of their country,” Malinowski said.

Fresh sanctions

Speaking shortly after the announcement of new sanctions on North Korean officials and government entities for human rights violations, the official said Washington is trying to send a clear message to those engaging in human rights abuses that “there’s a price to be paid.”

Malinowski said the U.S. is targeting human rights violators in the North with the support of the South Korean government and civic groups.

“[We want] to tell the leadership, the individual members of the leadership, that we know who they are, we know their names, they can’t hide under a cloak of anonymity.” He said Washington is committed to continuing the effort to hold the violators accountable.

Strong warning

“It’s a regular process and it is done now in accordance with law that our Congress has passed,” said Malinowski, in reference to the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016. The legislation requires the U.S. State Department to submit to Congress the details of human rights violations in North Korea and a list of entities and individuals responsible for committing such acts.

According to Malinowski, North Koreans are becoming more aware of the outside world because of the influx of information to the country.

“I think over time, that is bound to have an impact on the thinking of people up and down the chain in North Korea,” the official said.

FILE - A TV news program shows Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 27, 2014. North Korea has revealed that Kim is a senior official in the ruling Workers' Party.
FILE - A TV news program shows Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 27, 2014. North Korea has revealed that Kim is a senior official in the ruling Workers' Party.

On Wednesday, the U.S. sanctioned seven North Korean individuals, including Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, and two government entities, for human rights abuses. The first blacklist came last July, designating eight entities and 15 individuals, including Kim Jong Un.

Lee Jeeeun contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with VOA Korean Service

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