This week, a proposal from members of the Florida delegation that holds the North Korean regime more accountable headed to President Donald Trump’s desk.
Back in April 2017, Florida Republicans U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ted Yoho teamed up with U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., to unveil the “North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act.” Two other members of the Florida delegation–Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Democrat U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy–also co-sponsored the bill.
The proposal extends the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, which Ros-Lehtinen has championed during her long tenure in Congress, which “continues current authorities for North Korea-focused activities to promote human rights and democracy, refugee protection, and freedom of information (including broadcasting), as well as the U.S. Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues” and “continues reporting aimed at increasing transparency and accountability for any food aid provided to North Korea.”
Both of the representatives from Florida are top Republicans on Capitol Hill when it comes to foreign policy. Ros-Lehtinen currently chairs the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and she is the first woman to have ever led the Foreign Affairs Committee. Yoho chairs the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee with Sherman as the ranking Democrat.
Yoho’s “Distribution and Promotion of Rights and Knowledge Act” was included in Ros-Lehtinen’s proposal. When originally passed in 2004, the North Korea Human Rights Act authorized making radio broadcasts into North Korea. Noting the technological updates of the last 13 years, Yoho brought out a proposal to modernize the law back in May.
The North Central Florida Republican reeled in the support of some leading representatives including U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The House passed the bill in September and the Senate version, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was passed in April. The two chambers finalized the bill this week.
“The Kim regime systematically and ruthlessly terrorizes its own citizens, denying them their most basic freedoms,” Rubio said on Thursday. “This bipartisan bill makes clear our commitment to prioritizing and defending human rights in North Korea and I look forward to President Trump signing it into law soon. In the weeks ahead, it is critical that the United States hold the North Korean regime accountable for its abuses, including its extensive political prison camps, and engaging in abductions, torture, forced starvation, and sexual violence against women.”
“The Kim regime’s despicable treatment of the North Korean people should not and must not be ignored,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Thursday. “North Koreans suffer from some of the worst human rights abuses imaginable, including the starvation and torture of political opponents, and this brutal and dangerous behavior must be taken into account during any negotiation. In its pursuit of a landmark deal with Pyongyang, the administration may allow human rights to fall on the priority list, but with Congress sending this bill to the president’s desk, we have demonstrated that we will not allow human rights conditions in North Korea to go ignored. Congress has a long history of shining a light on North Korean abuses and promoting the work of human rights in that nation. These issues must not ignored or dealt with separately and any deal that is reached must include a substantial human rights component.”