Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing Thurs. April 15Civil and Political Rights in South Korea: Implications for Human Rights on the Peninsula
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) will co-chair a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission entitled "Civil and Political Rights in the Republic of Korea: Implications for Human Rights on the Peninsula," on Thursday, April 15, at 10:00 a.m.
The Commission will hear witnesses on the topic of freedom of expression on the Korean peninsula to examine the role of the right to freedom of expression and the exercise of other rights in the broader context of inter-Korean, U.S.-South Korea relations, and U.S.-North Korea relations, including strategies for advancing human rights in North Korea.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK or North Korea, a closed authoritarian state led by the Kim family since 1949, is widely recognized as having an extremely poor human rights record. In its latest Freedom in the World report, Freedom House ranks DPRK as “not free” with a score of 3 out of a possible 100. Although the DPRK constitution provides for freedom of expression and the press, the State Department reports that the government prohibits the exercise of these rights.
In contrast, the Republic of Korea, ROK or South Korea, is a constitutional democracy governed by a president and unicameral legislature in elections considered free and fair. Freedom House ranks ROK as “free” with a score of 83 out of a possible 100, the same score received by the United States. However, for decades credible nonpartisan observers have raised concerns about some measures taken by governments of all political stripes in Seoul that appear to restrict certain civil and political rights, including freedom of expression in South Korea. Recently, international attention has focused on a controversial “anti-leaflet law” passed by the National Assembly last December. Some observers have expressed concerns that the law could interfere with efforts to promote human rights in North Korea, including programs funded by the U.S. government, such as by disseminating USB drives containing information about the outside world.
The ROK is an important economic and strategic partner for the United States in Asia. The U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty, signed in 1953 at the end of the Korean War, commits the United States to help South Korea defend itself from North Korea. South Korea currently hosts 28,500 U.S. troops.
Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ)
James P. McGovern (D-MA)
*Witnesses may be added.