As the world waits breathlessly on the outcome of the historic Trump/Kim Summit, it is vital that we not forget the horrific state of human rights in the Hermit Kingdom. The United Nations 2014 report on North Korea made it clear that "gross and systemic" violations of rights are occurring in North Korea at a level unmatched by any other regime in the world. The depth and depravity of abuse within North Korea is, as the UN said, without "parallel in the contemporary world".
The Lantos Foundation sincerely hopes for a successful summit and, like all groups of goodwill, we recognize the immense benefit to humanity that would result from the successful de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We fervently hope this can be achieved. At the same time, we urge President Trump and Secretary Pompeo not to sideline the urgent human rights crises that exist in that nation. As a first step they should press vigorously for North Korea to close the notorious labor and prison gulags where over 100,000 prisoners are held in appalling conditions. Often entire families, including small children are imprisoned for the alleged "crimes" of a single family member. Over the past two decades it is estimated that 400,000 people have died in these camps from starvation, disease, torture and execution.
We believe that lasting peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula can only be achieved if the United States employs its "maximum pressure" strategy on every front, including human rights. A peace achieved by turning a blind eye to the abhorrent human rights practices of the North Korean regime will prove to be an illusory and false peace. For the sake of our own national security and our moral integrity we must insist that North Korea begin a process of de-brutalization, hand in hand with its promised de-nuclearization.