Statement of the Council of Korean Americans on U.S. Policy Toward North Korea

1. As citizens of the United States…

We have the right to petition our government and a civic responsibility to raise our voice on behalf of the Korean American community;

We believe that our government has an obligation to hear our voice and address the concerns of the Korean American community, including matters concerning the Korean Peninsula;

We recognize the importance of our country’s security interests and economic stake in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula;

We know that another Korean conflict or war would be a tragedy not just for the Korean people but for Americans in the region, including our troops, and for people everywhere;

We want America and our allies to be free from the direct threat of North Korean nuclear weapons; and

We must play a global leadership role in advocating for a peaceful, stable, and nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula. This is not just in the best interests of the United States, but of the world.

2. As people of Korean descent:

We share the same cultural identity and ancestry with Koreans all around the world, including both South Koreans and North Koreans;

Many of us have strong family and ancestral ties to both Koreas and have endured the pain of family separation since the Korean War;

We recognize and understand in ways others cannot that Korea was one country for many centuries but was tragically divided, and that many even now dream of its eventual reunification; and

We have a unique perspective stemming from this common heritage and should play a central role when it comes to considering issues affecting the Korean Peninsula.

3. As citizens of the world…

We believe that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, including the people of North Korea;

We are concerned about the widespread and systematic violations of human rights against the North Korean people, which have been well-documented by the United Nations and other international agencies;

We believe that North Korea, as a member of the United Nations, should uphold its international obligations and remain engaged with the international community; and

We believe that indefinite isolation—whether imposed upon others or self-imposed—ultimately works against universal norms of rights and freedoms and the pursuit of global peace.

4. We believe that…

Although the Peninsula’s political future must be determined by the Korean people themselves, an effective U.S. policy toward North Korea is essential to lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula;

U.S. policy toward North Korea must consider and include the views of the Korean American community; and

Any U.S. policy toward North Korea must at minimum seek to:

Roll back the development of North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles–which threaten the United States and its close allies South Korea and Japan, have a destabilizing effect on the region, and weaken international peace and security–with the ultimate goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula;

Reduce tensions on the Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, strengthen U.S. national security, and proactively advance international peace and stability;

Tangibly improve the day-to-day quality of life of the North Korean people by providing humanitarian assistance in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, and impartiality, and by ensuring that humanitarian issues remain separate from political issues;

Closely coordinate with the policies of South Korea because no U.S. policy toward North Korea can succeed without the support of Seoul;

5. Therefore, the Council of Korean Americans calls on the U.S. government to…

  • Invest stronger political will and adopt a more creative, proactive, and comprehensive approach to address the North Korea problem;
  • Pursue more consistent, frequent, and direct senior-level talks with the North Korean government—and through more diverse channels including diplomatic, military, and intelligence—without unnecessary preconditions or bureaucratic hurdles;
  • Employ greater incentives and disincentives, which go hand in hand, to induce and sustain North Korean denuclearization, including:

Sanctions relief, energy and economic development assistance, appropriate modification of U.S.-ROK military exercises, negotiations toward an eventual peace treaty at the right time; and

Enhanced and sustained pressure on Pyongyang and Beijing, including secondary sanctions on Chinese individuals and entities and stronger enforcement of existing laws, to stunt North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and bring Pyongyang to dialogue;

  • Continue to urge the North Korean government to uphold its international obligations related to universal human rights, as set out by its membership in the United Nations and its ratification of international conventions, including the closure of its political concentration camps;
  • Enable non-governmental, people-to-people humanitarian engagement, including the reunion of Korean American divided families and the resumption of recovery operations for U.S. POW/MIA remains in North Korea, and ensure that these humanitarian efforts remain separate from and unconstrained by political issues; and
  • Provide direct or indirect humanitarian assistance proportional to the medical, nutritional, and health needs of the North Korean people without linking to political objectives, and ensure that humanitarian activity in North Korea remains financially, logistically, and legally unconstrained.