U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) political prison labor camp system. As North Korea appears to indicate interest in resuming talks with the U.S., the resolution, Senate Res. 303, calls on the DPRK to dismantle their brutal system, noting instances of religious persecution, rape, forced abortions and brutal executions within the camps.
U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are original cosponsors of the resolution.
Senator Hawley said, “The crimes against humanity the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are committing are unparalleled in the world today. It has been estimated that more than 400,000 people out of 500,000 imprisoned were killed over a 30-year span. That these conditions exist in the 21st century, after the horrors the world witnessed in the last, is unconscionable. Just as then, we cannot remain silent. We should consider sanctions against those responsible and send a clear message to Pyongyang that the global community is not going to rest until these camps are abolished.”
Senator Cortez Masto said, “The world knows that North Korea abuses its own population by keeping people—many of them innocent of any wrongdoing—in horrific conditions in forced labor camps. The North Korean regime must halt its human rights violations, and the United States and the international community must do all we can to highlight these atrocities and stand up for those who are suffering.”
Senator Gardner said, “North Korea is the world’s leading abuser of human rights, and their vast network of brutal labor camps is barbaric and an affront to humanity. The United States must maintain the maximum pressure campaign against the Kim regime, as called for by the Gardner-Markey Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, until North Korea fully denuclearizes and respects the rights of its people, including completely dismantling these shameful and truly inhumane facilities.”
Senator Van Hollen said, “North Korea’s use of labor camps is a gross abuse of human rights. The existence of these camps is well-documented, and we must continue to shine a light on their cruel and inhumane practices. Speaking out about these issues – and leveraging international pressure – will help us hold North Korea’s feet to the fire.”
Senator Markey said, “The world has rightly been focused on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and other illicit activities, but the United States cannot ignore the atrocious human rights violations occurring in North Korea’s labor camps. If we are to remain true to our values, we must raise awareness about these actions and call for their immediate halt. We must get back to negotiations with North Korea, and must include human rights front and center in that agenda.”
Senator Blackburn said, “North Korea should feel the weight of the entire United States Congress on its shoulders. The human rights abuses committed in labor camps under Kim Jung Un’s watch are unacceptable. I join my colleagues in the Senate in calling on North Korea to immediately cease these horrific practices and to put an end to its gulag system.”
In the resolution, the Senators call upon the international community to join them in demanding the labor camps be dismantled, and create a special tribunal to investigate and remedy North Korea’s crimes against humanity, consider targeted sanctions against those involved in these crimes, and ban the import of goods made by North Korean prison laborers.