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On September 28, the United States Senate unanimously passed the North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004. The bill, which must now pass the House of Representatives, authorizes the naming of a human-rights envoy and allows the release of humanitarian funds to nongovernmental organizations that aid North Korean refugees. Human-rights advocate Michael Horowitz, senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, discussed the meaning of the legislation with Associate News Editor Stan Guthrie.

What is the significance of the passage of this act?

Here's an abused term, but in this case, I have come to feel that it is literally correct to call this success a miracle. The odds couldn't have been heavier. Here was a bill that had to come before the United States Senate in the closing days of the congressional session, under circumstances where a single Senate objection would kill the bill. It had to operate under a unanimous consent procedure, and where the bill was being bitterly opposed by the South Korean government. The North Korean regime was claiming the passage of the bill would be provocative and lead to every apocalyptic threat they could issue. Many in the State Department were absolutely hostile to the bill's purposes. There were a number of Democratic leaders who had every reason to find in the bill real barriers to their preferred approach for dealing with North Korea. What the bill did was elevate the status of human rights in North Korea and make it a necessary element of any bargaining process and relationship that the United States and [North] Korea had. And of course this ran directly contrary to the views of people who want to resuscitate the so-called "framework agreement" that the Clinton administration, had where we gave them ...

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October 2004

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