July 05, 2023

North Korean Human Rights and the Future of the U.S.-ROK Alliance

By Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director

July 5, 2023

The following text is adapted from the keynote address delivered by Greg Scarlatoiu, HRNK Executive Director, at the inaugural conference of the America Korea United Society (AKUS) at the Korean Community Center in Alexandria, VA on June 22, 2023.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hearty congratulations to AKUS on your vision and mission. Your credo, “respect, integrity, and transparency,” summarizes the core values we need to share to keep developing the American constitutional republic and the liberal democracy of the Republic of Korea. These values define the U.S.-ROK alliance, a brotherhood and sisterhood forged in blood on the brutal and unforgiving battlefields of the Korean War. They are also the key to unifying the Korean Peninsula under a free, democratic, capitalist Republic of Korea.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice of July 27, 1953. The Korean Peninsula is still divided, and there is little to celebrate. It is also the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK alliance, which was built on the Mutual Defense Treaty of October 1, 1953. Over those seven decades, this alliance has expanded beyond security issues to cover economic cooperation, education, and culture. This is truly an unbreakable alliance, friendship, and partnership. Your commitment to preserving and enhancing the alliance will only make our two nations and our bond even stronger.

It is still the ultimate strategic objective of the Kim regime to undermine, subvert, and eventually annex South Korea. After all, the Kim family regime is not even a political cartel. It is an absolute political monopoly. The Kim family rules North Korea through the Korean Workers’ Party, led by its Organization and Guidance Department and its Central Committee.

The only challenge to the post-industrial, kleptocratic, dynastic regime of North Korea is South Korea. South Korea is free, democratic, and prosperous. It is an economic powerhouse—the world’s tenth largest economy. South Korea’s success presents an existential threat to the Kim regime. In particular, it fears that the people of North Korea will come to view the South Korean model—sustained by the extraordinary talent, determination, and hard work of the Korean people and underpinned by strong ties to the United States—as a superior alternative to the Kim regime.

We all want peace. We all want to lead by example. We all want peace through economic, political, social, cultural, and military strength. We all want peace, reconciliation, and the eventual reunification of all Koreans under the Republic of Korea. The path toward the dream of Korean reunification does not lie in false promises or peace declarations that ignore the human rights of North Koreans and the threat the Kim regime poses to international peace and security. There cannot be peace without justice. In striving for Korean reunification, we must address the grave military and security threats that North Korea poses, as well as its egregious human rights violations.

To bring change to the Korean Peninsula, we must find out and tell the truth about the Kim regime’s crimes against humanity. It is essential to create a coalition of like-minded governments, civil society organizations, and international institutions to put an end to a human rights catastrophe that simply cannot be tolerated in the 21st century.

However, change must ultimately come from the people of North Korea. We must empower them through information from the outside world by telling them three stories: first, the story of their own human rights, which they are unaware of; second, the corruption of their leadership, especially the corruption of the inner core of the Kim family; and third, the story of the outside world, especially the story of free, democratic, prosperous South Korea.

The mission statement and activities of AKUS align perfectly with this vision. I wish you all God’s speed, and look forward to working together to bring freedom, human rights, democracy, and economic opportunity to the people of North Korea.