Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea Jay Lefkowitz made his public debut at a reception held in his honor Wednesday evening (Nov. 16) in the Senate by the Congressional Working Group on Religious Freedom, chaired by Senator Rick Santorum, and Freedom House and its Center for Religious Freedom. Ambassador Lefkowitz plans to soon make his first visit to the Korean Peninsula . The Special Envoy post was established under the North Korea Human Rights Act and Ambassador Lefkowitz, a prominent attorney, was appointed to it by President Bush last August. Below are the remarks of the Special Envoy from Wednesdays reception.
Remarks by Special Envoy Jay Lefkowitz
November 16, 2005
- I would like to thank Senator Santorum and the Congressional Working Group on Religious Freedom for inviting me to speak to you. I would also like to thank Freedom House for its work in putting this event together.
- Many of you here have been instrumental in raising the profile of the important issue of North Korean human rights, and I wish to commend you and thank you for the work you have done. Your efforts led to the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act, signed by the President just over a year ago, and your groundwork ensured its unanimous support and passage. I am confident that this Act will have a place in history along with other such human rights legislation and will be viewed as a watershed that marked a turning point in a long struggle for freedom.
- There is no doubt that the challenge confronting us is daunting. All of you are no doubt familiar with the horrors that North Koreans face: starvation, a complete lack of freedom, the total suppression of religious freedom, isolation from the outside world, summary punishment and even more depraved conditions within the nations network of political concentration camps. The list goes on. Many of those who have been able to flee the country face their own set of dire circumstances.
- But their suffering does not go unnoticed. Earlier today in Kyoto , Japan , President Bush gave a historic speech on the expansion of freedom in Asia , and I would like to reiterate some key parts. He said:
- [T]he few nations whose leaders have refused to take even the first steps to freedom are finding themselves out of step with their neighbors and isolated from the world. Even in these lonely places, the desire for freedom lives and one day freedom will reach their shores as well
- The United States is also concerned with the fate of freedom in Northeast Asia , particularly on the Korean peninsula, where great powers have collided in the past. An armistice, a truce freezes the battle lines from a war that has never really come to an end. The pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens to destabilize the region. Satellite maps of North Korea show prison camps the size of whole cities, and a country that at night is clothed in almost complete darkness
- We will not forget the people of North Korea . The 21st century will be freedom’s century for all Koreans and one day every citizen of that peninsula will live in dignity and freedom and prosperity at home and in peace with their neighbors abroad.
- I am presently in the final stages of completing my strategy for the next several months. It will include plans for senior officials in the U.S. Government to engage foreign officials in northeast Asia to address the relevant issues. We want to reach out to governments in Europe and Asia as well as to their publics, to raise the profile of the issue and to seek their involvement and assistance. We plan to coordinate several forms of assistance outlined by the North Korean Human Rights Act and other activities to alleviate the suffering of North Koreans and work toward the vision outlined by the President in which Asia continues its democratic transformation.
- Partnerships with key NGOs like Freedom House help make this possible.
- As proposed in the NKHRA, I am now completing a pragmatic, but ambitious action plan. I look forward to briefing you on it once it is finalized, which should be very soon.
- Once again, thank you for your support and attention.