Seoul Peace Prize

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Thank you to Chairman Chul-Seung Lee and Members of the Seoul Peace Prize Selection Committee for this tremendous honor. It is very humbling to be recognized by a group of such distinguished Korean leaders who have been champions in academia, government service, journalism, commerce and industry, sports and the arts. It is also very humbling to join the previous laureates and reflect on what this award symbolizes in promoting peace and harmony as was symbolized by the Seoul Olympic Games of 1988, which brought together more nations than had ever participated in the Olympics.

I also thank all of you who have joined me in this celebration and wish to recognize some of the special people in my life: my husband, Chadwick Gore, my mother, Sandy Scholte, and my youngest son, James. And a man who has become a member of my family, and stood with me through many storms and trials and has been my most important colleague in this work. He has been a trusted advisor and without him I never could have been in such close contact with the North Korean defectors because he is constantly translating for me and making communication possible which has been so vital in this work. Without his friendship and love and dedication to this cause, I would not be here. So, I especially want to recognize Sin U Nam.

Finally, I also want to recognize my African brother, Ambassador Moulud Said of the Sahrawi Republic, and Carlos Wilson of the US-Western Sahara Foundation, who could not be with us; the Board of Directors and supporters of the Defense Forum Foundation; my colleagues with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and my activists friends with the North Korea Freedom Coalition, whose motto is Acta Non Verba.

The recognition that you have given me this day is something I never thought I would achieve in my lifetime. I am so grateful to you because you have raised me up to a higher level that will help me with this work.

I wish to accept the Seoul Peace Prize, not just for myself, but for those who have inspired my work: the North Korean defectors who are valiantly working for freedom, democracy, and human rights for their homeland, and the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara who are seeking self-determination and the right to live as a free people through peaceful and democratic means. By recognizing my work, you also honor them for they have inspired me in all my efforts and given me strength and endurance.

Several years ago, I arranged for North Korean women to participate in a conference we organized with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The panel I moderated focused on what was happening to the refugees in China and I introduced three witnesses: Oh Young Hui, Ji Hae Nam, and Byeon Ok Sun. These brave women talked about the public executions, the trafficking and enslavement of North Korean women in China, the separation of their families, the starvation, and the horrors that are faced when one is repatriated to North Korea. As we left the podium, we were all in tears and the audience was shocked into silence at what they had just heard, except for one elderly lady. She walked right up to these three women and told us her story: Her name was Magda Bass and when she was 17 years old, she and her family were taken to Auschwitz to be exterminated in gas chambers. Because she was strong and healthy, the Nazis decided to spare her life and make her a slave laborer. When she resisted being separated from her mother, they beat her and broke her collarbone and shoulder. No one in that Los Angeles audience understood more what these women had faced except this one lady who had also been victimized by a great evil and survived but lost her entire family, her home, her childhood and her innocence. Magda Bass decided after the war to come to the United States and she told us that when she applied for entry, she had to fill out paperwork and under the category of nationality, she wrote: HUMAN BEING.

Now, I believe there is a holocaust going on right now in North Korea. Just as shock reverberated around the world when the Allies liberated the concentration camps, shock is once again going to reverberate around the world when North Korea is freed. Today, we know that Kim Jong-il is committing genocide by targeting specific groups for extermination-specifically those he deems disloyal. He has used food aid as a weapon against his own people cutting off portions of the country not deemed loyal. He has utilized the generosity of free nations to maintain power and avoid reform by imprisoning and killing those who dare to cry out for change. We know he has a vast network of political prison camps where even children are enslaved and worked to death. We know he has murdered millions of people through intentionally starving them to death and through working them to death in his political prison camps. We know he continues to hold POWS from the Korean War and has abducted citizens from South Korea, Japan and other nations. We know he publicly executes people who have tried to flee his hell on earth and jails and tortures people who worship God. We already know all these things, and I shudder to think what more we will learn when the captives are set free in North Korea, and Kim Jong-il faces trial for crimes against humanity. This is why in dealing with this regime, human rights must be our central focus. How many more North Koreans need to die before we recognize and stop these atrocities?

When I organized the first Congressional hearing on the North Korean political prison camps back in 1999 only two countries were represented: the embassy of the Republic of Korea and the Sahrawi Republic. Ambassador Moulud Said of Western Sahara personally attended this hearing because, like Magda Bass, he also understood the pain that the Korean people face: his people are being persecuted in Moroccan-Occupied Western Sahara: Sahrawi men and women peacefully demonstrating are arrested, brutally tortured, and jailed in Morocco’s black prisons, simply for asking for the right to vote. Just like North Korea, Moroccan-Occupied Western Sahara is always ranked by Freedom House (a U.S. based NGO that annually measures the state of freedom worldwide) as one of the top ten worst regimes in the world. The Sahrawi people are also separated by a berm, a two thousand kilometer-long sand wall, built by the occupiers of Western Sahara. This berm, like the DMZ, is impassable, littered with land mines and patrolled by soldiers separating families and preventing the Sahrawis from escaping to their loved ones in the free part of Western Sahara that is not occupied by Morocco.

I was asked recently what were some of the challenges and setbacks I have faced in my work, and when I thought about it, I could not think of a single time that was not a challenge and when I did not face a setback. I remember crying out to God in frustration and asking Him why He had made North Korea such a central focus of my life where people were experiencing such tremendous pain and suffering. God gently reminded me that many years ago I had prayed that He would break my heart for the things that were breaking His heart. I know that what is happening to the people of North Korea is breaking God’s heart.

Adding to these tragic circumstances has been the unwillingness of our governments to put these human rights issues at the forefront. In my work on this issue, I saw a change in the attitude of the South Korean Government to ignore these issues, and I have seen Bill Clinton Government treat human rights as a secondary concern.

Both governments’ moderate policy on North Korea’s human rights not only downplayed human rights concerns, it called for the complete and intentional abandonment of the human rights concerns, the abandonment of the South Koreans who have been abducted, and the Korean War POWs still being held by this regime. When President George Bush was elected in 2000, he put the Clinton policy towards North Korea on hold and ordered a top to bottom review of how the United States should deal with North Korea. Bush claimed that Kim Jong-il was a dictator arming himself with nuclear weapons while starving his own people. No one appreciated Bush’s candor more than the North Korean defectors who felt that was an accurate summary of the situation. Finally, someone came to power and leadership who spoke the truth.

This also contributed to greater proliferation of nuclear weapons as we now know that Kim was busy helping Syria build its own nuclear facility. Even though enough food aid was sent to feed every single North Korean in danger of starvation, people still died of famine as Kim Jong-il used this aid as a weapon against his own people.

Millions of North Koreans were in fact starved to death, worked to death, tortured and beaten to death, publicly executed, by the very deliberate and very intentional policies of Kim Jong-il.

The truth is that Kim Jong-il will never give up his nuclear weapons because they are the only things he has left to maintain power. He has brilliantly manipulated the good will of free people to strengthen his grip on power, and continue his enslavement of the people of North Korea. And, we have helped him not only financially but by being silent about his atrocities. Our silence means death to the people of North Korea.

This was evidenced by the United States government using its own Federal Reserve to return the $25 million of Kim Jong-il’s money that he gained from illicit activities and that had been frozen in the Banco Delta Asia scandal.

Kim Jong-il, while among the most evil dictators in modern history, is also brilliant at manipulating the good will of free nations. While we attempted to feed the starving North Korean people, he continued to convince them that we wanted to destroy them, that we were their mortal enemy.

When we don’t even mention the suffering that the North Korean people are facing, we prove Kim Jong-il’s lies to be true: all we care about is the nuclear issue, that the United States does not care about the North Korean people, only the harm they could potentially do to us.

I saw the truth of this statement illustrated most graphically by a very brave woman who was part of the North Korea Freedom Week delegation we hosted this year. AN Jin Hee came to the United States as a special witness, as she was the only known survivor of the North Korean Christian underground church. It is a miracle that she avoided execution for the crime of being a Christian, and was given leniency - a simple 15 year sentence of torture and hard labor instead of death by public execution. She survived three years of torture until her husband got enough money to pay a bribe to get her temporarily released, so she could regain her health, and be returned to the political prison camp to be tortured again. Instead, she escaped and made it to freedom in South Korea, but she was still terrified to come to the United States for North Korea Freedom Week. Despite living in freedom in South Korea, she was still afraid of Americans and she actually prayed with her prayer group that she would not be killed by coming to America. That is a testament to the power of the brainwashing done by the Kim Jong-il regime.

But her decision to come to the United States, is also a testament, a testament to the power of the human spirit. She decided that she would go to the United States to speak out for the suffering people of North Korea even though she believed she could lose her life for doing this.

Of course, she fell in love with America and the American people, as she was embraced by everyone from high ranking officials in the U.S. government to high school students who came participated in events that week. She wrote to me after the visit: “During North Korea Freedom Week, I experienced so much love and sincerity, my heart overflows with emotion. Until today I cried because my heart was so hurt, so bruised, but now I cry with joy and I cannot stop thinking about what I can do to bring freedom and human rights to my fellow North Koreans.”

The question we must ask ourselves is: Who is standing up for people like AN Jin-Hee? Who is considering their suffering, their well-being?

This is an especially critical time to act for the benefit of the North Korean people because some of the major methods Kim Jong-il uses to enslave them are being dramatically weakened: the ban on outside information and the public distribution system. Kim Jong-il is failing in his ability to isolate the North Korean people. He is failing to distribute food and material goods to make the people dependent upon him. With the assistance of China, he is succeeding partially in stopping escaping refugees, but where he is fully succeeding is in his use of fear and terror as weapons. We know that the political prison camps continue to be used as means of control through fear, and to punish and work to death those who would oppose him. During talks with North Korea, we need to ask that the International Red Cross be allowed to visit the political prison camps to provide food and medicines, at the very minimum. We need to condition food aid on our ability to see it consumed. We also need to work with other nations in the region to establish a First Asylum Policy for the North Korean refugees, just as we did for the Vietnamese boat people. South Korea and the United States should work together to implement a policy that guarantees the safety of any North Korean refugee. We must let China, Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia - any country where a refugee flees - that the refugee is deserving of protection under international law and we will work with them to safely resettled that refugee.

We cannot continue to allow China to forcefully repatriate North Korean refugees - this is a barbaric and inhumane policy, and contrary to any country that wants to be seen as world leader and that just hosted the Olympic Games. I was encouraged with President Lee Myung-Bak’s action to call upon China to stop this brutality.

If we fail to speak out about these truths about the evil Kim Jong-il has caused, we betray our values as a free people, we embolden his regime, and we make it impossible for the double-thinkers, those who know that Kim Jong-il must go, to ever to rise up against him. We know these thinkers exist because they are escaping North Korea all the time. Among the fifteen thousand defectors who have escaped to South Korea are military leaders, diplomats, National Security Bureau agents, teachers, professors - members of the elite, as well as the hostile and wavering classes. And 500,000 have shown their dissent by the very act of crossing the border.

But how can those leaders in North Korea who want reform and change ever find their voice if ours is silent in the face of their suffering?

Right now we have the greatest asset to bring about reform and change in North Korea - the defectors who have escaped who understand Kim Jong-il better than all of us, who know how to lead the way forward. They are the future and they are fighting this battle on their own. They have a leader who has given them wisdom and inspiration and has been a great and dear friend and inspiration to me as well, Dr. Hwang Jang-yop.

These defectors need your support. They are already in the thick of this battle in this fight for human rights which, I believe, can be won with the power of information and truth just as the Cold War was won. Ronald Reagan did not shrink from calling the Soviet Union what it was: an evil empire and demanding that the Berlin Wall be torn down. And human rights was a cornerstone of United States Policy as a result of the Helsinki process begun under President Gerald Ford which made human rights a component of interactions with the Soviet Union.

Through speaking the truth and promoting human rights, and working to empower the North Korean defectors, we can end the suffering of the North Korean people peacefully. Some of the many defectors actively working for human rights who need your support include.

I believe there is a God who loves and cherishes each of us and that we are united as one family of what Magda Bass would define as human beings.

I also believe that those of us who live in freedom have a moral obligation to strive to ensure that every person, whether born in Pyongyang or Seoul or in occupied Western Sahara or in a refugee camp in the Sahara desert has that God-given right to freedom, human rights, and dignity. World peace and harmony is achievable only when these God given rights are secure, and all men and women can pursue their dreams without being enslaved by dictators or kings.

My friends, we are all Koreans, we are all Sahrawis, because we are all human beings, and we will be judged on whether we spoke out to help our brothers and sisters or whether we remained silent.

I thank you again for this tremendous honor, but I am also very mindful of the fact that the people of North Korea and Western Sahara are still suffering just as much today as they were when I first got involved in these issues.

So, I would like to pledge today to the Seoul Peace Prize Committee that with God’s help, I will honor your prestigious award by doing all that I can in my life to help the North Korean people and the Sahrawi people until they are free.

Thank you.