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Commission to Hold Hearing on Religious Freedom in North Korea

January 18, 2002

Lawrence J. Goodrich, Communications Director, (202) 523-3240, ext. 27

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent government agency advising the Administration and Congress, will hold a hearing on Thursday, January 24 in Washington, D.C., on "Promoting Religious Freedom in North Korea." The hearing is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the Longworth House Office Building, Room 1302.


Despite the difficulty of obtaining reliable information on conditions in the Democratic People\'s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), it is apparent that religious freedom does not exist there. Among other countries, the Commission nominated North Korea for designation by the State Department as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) - the world's worst religious-freedom violators, subject to U.S. action under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The Commission was pleased when in October 2001, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell designated North Korea as a CPC.

U.S. policy toward North Korea has focused on concerns with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology, and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Nevertheless, in light of the grievous religious-freedom situation there, the Commission believes that the United States must place significant emphasis on the protection of religious freedom in North Korea. The hearing will examine religious persecution in North Korea and explore policy options for the U.S. government to improve the situation of religious people there.

To date, the confirmed witnesses and schedule are as follows:

9:00-9:15 Welcome and Introductory Remarks by Michael K. Young, Chair

Panel I:

9:15-10:15 Religious Freedom Conditions in North Korea

Norbert Vollertsen, former volunteer medical doctor in the DPRK

Sang-Chul Kim, Secretary General, Commission to Help North Korean Refugees


Panel II:

10:30-12:00 U.S. Policy Options for North Korea

Stephen Linton, Chairman, Eugene Bell Foundation

Donald Oberdorfer, Adjunct Professor, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University

Chuck Downs, Private consultant and author of Over the Lines

Jack Rendler, Vice Chairman, U.S. Committee on Human Rights in North Korea

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress." 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom




Michael K. Young,Chair

  • Felice D. Gaer, Firuz Kazemzadeh, Richard D. Land, Bishop William Francis Murphy, Leila Nadya Sadat, Nina Shea, The Hon. Charles R. Stith, The Hon. Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Steven T. McFarland, Executive Director