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The U.S. Senate yesterday passed a bill aimed to increase pressure on North Korea to improve its human-rights practices. The North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, as passed by the Senate, will provide for a human-rights envoy, writes UPI. According to the Korea Times, "It also allows Washington to supply up to $20 million per year to individuals and NGOs around the world who are helping North Korean refugees in third countries. In addition, it permits North Korean defectors to the South to apply to immigrate to the United States."

In July, the House of Representatives passed a more moderate version of the bill that "provides some humanitarian assistance for North Koreans, conditioned on improved transparency and monitoring." The bill will now go to back to the House for a final vote. According to The Washington Post, it's only a gesture, but one that's needed.

In South Korea, many are arguing that the bill will make it more difficult to work with the North Koreans. The Korea Times reports, "The ruling Uri Party, which had been silent on its official position on the issue until now, expressed their doubts Thursday on the passing of the North Korean human rights act, saying that it could aggravate inter-Korean relations and exert a negative influence on the Korean economy." The paper also warned that the nuclear standoff would be further complicated, and it would damage the six-way talks that have already been "derailed."

However, Korean Christians in the U.S. have recently been praying for the passage of the bill. At a meeting in Los Angeles of 2,000 Korean pastors in the U.S. and Canada, Koreans urged the ending of the regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

"We are your servants, Lord. Show us your miracle," said Peter ...

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