Washington, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 2061).  The bipartisan bill reauthorizes U.S. programs that promote human rights, democracy, and freedom of information in North Korea.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“The world is rightly focused on the threat that North Korea poses to global security.

Their nuclear detonations, missile launches, forward-deployed artillery, and a history of deadly provocations all underscore a simple, jarring fact:  The Kim regime wants to pose a mortal threat to the United States, and to our democratic, treaty allies: South Korea and Japan.

But in facing this reality, we cannot afford to forget the regime’s greatest victim and longest-held hostage: The North Korean people themselves.  Remembering this is not just a moral imperative, but it’s a strategic one, too. If Kim had to answer to the North Korean people, he would pose far less danger to us.

The truth is Kim Jong Un’s most potent enemy.  The regime should be forced to confront the dismal reality it has inflicted on its own people.  Obsessed with self-preservation, it is willing to inflict starvation and stunting on them, while Kim and his cronies feast on imported luxuries and liquor.  The bonds of public affection for Kim are so fragile that they can only be maintained with purges, public executions, and deadly prison camps.

It is no wonder, then, that the regime’s harshest critics are escaped North Koreans who have seen through the wall of misinformation that Kim works so hard to maintain.  We have heard time and again from North Korean refugees about the indelible impact of real information from the outside world – whether it be defector broadcasts, or pirated South Korean TV dramas set in the affluent, bustling metropolis of Seoul.  Just last month, I was discussing these issues in Seoul with Thae Yong-ho, the highest ranking North Korean defector and their former ambassador to the U.K.  He emphasized that such knowledge undermines the lie that North Korea is a socialist paradise and the envy of the world.

Today, harnessing the power of information and public expectations inside North Korea is more important than ever.  Along with enhanced sanctions on the regime’s enablers, they are critical non-military tools for confronting the growing North Korean threat to our safety.

H.R. 2061 does not merely reauthorize activities under the North Korean Human Rights Act.  It enacts important updates to freedom-of-information authorities, to reflect technological advances beyond radio broadcasting, including USB drives, mobile devices, and other promising tools.  It also renews the obligations of the Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights.  Finally, the bill enhances congressional oversight tools, to help ensure that our investments stand the best chance of paying dividends in freedom for North Korea, and greater security for the rest of the world.

I want to thank the Chairman Emeritus of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, for authoring this bill, along with our Ranking Member, Eliot Engel, and the Chair and Ranking Member of our Asia Subcommittee, Ted Yoho and Brad Sherman.  The gentlelady from Florida is tireless in her defense of human rights, and has been a legislative leader on North Korea for more than a decade.

I am a proud cosponsor of this excellent bill, which deserves our unanimous support.”