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Speculation mounted among Christian activists and human rights groups: Would President Bush bring up human rights in North Korea during the first White House visit by China's leader? And if so, what would be the result? They had pushed Bush to make the sensitive issue a sticking point with Chinese president Hu Jintao in April.

Leading up to the meeting, Bush had gone so far as to say he was "gravely concerned" about the plight of Kim Chun Hee, a North Korean woman who sought refuge after entering a Korean school in China last fall. Chinese authorities arrested her and sent her back to North Korea, despite the protests of the U.S., South Korea, and the U.N. Her fate remains unknown.

Following the Bush-Hu summit, Bush's special envoy for human rights in North Korea, Jay Lefkowitz, told CT that Bush "raised the issue directly" and that Kim was "the only individual case that he raised with President Hu." As for Hu's response: "It's clear that President Hu understood how important this issue is to the President."

Christian activists and other groups vowed to continue to pressure Bush and Hu to aid North Koreans. They want more slots for asylum seekers and increased radio programming into North Korea—and more penalties for sending North Koreans back to their home country, including trade sanctions against China and boycotts of Chinese-made goods.

"We want to make sure the human rights issue remains squarely on the agenda," said Ann Buwalda, executive director of Jubilee Campaign USA, which has joined coalitions supporting such measures. "If we keep our voices silent, it's not going to change."

A November U.S. State Department report reiterated the fact that religious freedom does not exist in North Korea. Defectors have reported ...

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In the Magazine

June 2006

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