Bush Institute policy recommendations on North Korea (and, no, they're not "regime change tomorrow")



Two previous posts have examined constituent reports associated with the launch of the Bush Institute’s the Human Freedom initiative. Today I examine the policy agenda derived from meetings of the initiative’s study groups as summarized by Bush Institute Fellow in Human Freedom (and former Bush Administration NSC staffer) Victor Cha. In the interests of full disclosure, I participated in the group’s meetings in Washington. (And should note that Lindsay Lloyd from the Bush Institute contacted me to confirm that there was indeed a typo in the original report and has provided corrected figures.)

The policy recommendations fall into six groups: raising global awareness; breaking down North Korea’s informational barriers; engaging and supporting US-based refugees; making human rights a priority at the UN; making human rights a priority in US policy; and enlisting China. These recommendations flow from a set of assessments that conclude that North Korean human rights abuses constitute a “threat as severe as that posed by the regime’s weapons programs"; that a strategy to address North Korean human rights practices “necessarily must be in the context of a broader framework and policy that seeks reform in the DPRK and ultimately prepares for a future Korea that is whole and free"; and that denuclearization “can only be credible if it is accompanied by concrete evidence of human rights reform and human rights accountability.”

It goes without saying that each of these assessments is debatable. But the initiative has generated an extraordinarily detailed set of recommendations which I will summarize. Readers interested in greater detail are referred to the original source linked above.

Raising global awareness:

  • Use social media, consider a campaign to “Stand Up” for the North Korean people;
  • Find visible and influential “Champions” for North Korean human rights;
  • Broaden the base by mobilizing new constituencies to support North Korean human rights;
  • Create transnational networks;
  • Disseminate literature;
  • Highlight the role of women in North Korean society; and
  • Foster research on the growth of civil society within North Korea and cultural exchange.

Breaking information barriers:

  • Develop innovative means of piercing the North Korean regime’s informational monopoly; and
  • Improving the content of information aimed at the North Korean audience.

Engaging and supporting US-based refugees:

  • Seek public-private partnerships to support educational opportunities;
  • Expand and improve the efficiency of the existing resettlement program;
  • (Further) Mobilize the Korean-American community to support refugees;
  • Publicize successful cases of resettlement;
  • Draw on experiences of other diaspora communities; and
  • Support remittances back to North Korea.

Making human rights a priority at the UN:

  • Create “accountability anxiety” in North Korea and China;
  • In the aftermath of the Commission of Inquiry Report keep international focus on the North Korean human rights issue;
  • Put “Rights Up Front”: make UN agencies accountable for human rights in interactions with North Korea;
  • Presupposing Chinese (and possibly Russian) vetoes in the Security Council, find alternative routes to the International Criminal Court; and
  • Document atrocities through the new UN human rights office in South Korea.

Making human rights a priority in US policy:

  • Integrate human rights into mainstream diplomacy in the Six-Party Talks and bilateral agenda with North Korea;
  • Use strategic pressure by integrating human rights with the sanctions regime;
  • Create a Helsinki-type process that integrates human rights for thinking about the future of the Korean peninsula;
  • Raise the salience of the issue with the general public; and
  • Streamline the process of asylum application.

Enlisting China:

  • Decipher Beijing’s perceived vulnerabilities on North Korean human rights issues as a way of gaining cooperation;
  • Form contact groups on North Korea within various multilateral fora;
  • Press on multiple fronts accountability abuses of human rights of North Koreans within China;
  • Name and shame individuals and agencies responsible for refoulement to encourage accountability;
  • Link nonproliferation and human rights in terms of practices of Chinese firms and enterprises; and
  • Make North Korean human rights a bilateral issue.

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