$8.9 million will be provided by the United States Congress to fund broadcasts aimed at reaching North Korea, members of the United States Congress agreed in a 2014 appropriations bill last week.
The legislation will also provides “Migration and Refugee Assistance” for North Koreans, as well as the creation of a “Democracy Fund” to “to establish and maintain a database 11 of prisons and gulags in North Korea”.
The fund will keep “a list of political prisoners, and such database shall be regularly updated and made publicly available on the Internet, as appropriate,” the bill reads.
Director of Research & Strategy at LiNK Sokeel Park told NK News that “Congress’ decision should be welcomed”.
“Funding the increase of information flows into North Korea is one of the most cost-effective ways to accelerate change and long-term progress in North Korea,” he said. “Radio still plays a crucial role in delivering news, information and alternate ideas in real time across the whole country”.
News that the United States will continue to fund Korea-targeted broadcaster came after last week’s news that the BBC World Service had decided against a proposal to establish a Korean language service, despite the support of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on North Korea.
In a letter addressed to the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the World Service had examined the arguments for a Korean BBC service and concluded that it would not be cost-effective or have the desired impact.
Chair of the Committee Lord Alton had expressed his support for a service in October and said he was pushing the BBC on the issue, but said that South Korean laws prohibiting foreign media organizations broadcasting from the ROK would make it difficult, concerns also cited by the BBC in the Foreign Secretary’s letter.
Michael Glendinning, co-director of the London-based European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea which campaigned for the BBC service, told NK News that Congress’s decision was “a welcome one”.
“Organisations which were set up to document human rights abuses and information about the political prison camps have lacked adequate levels of funding to publish their findings,” he said, “so making a database available to the public will greatly help activists and researchers to better understand the political prison camps”.
“Increased funding for broadcasting is greatly needed,” Glendinning continued, “The EU and UK must take a more public role in trying to improve humanitarian conditions in North Korea”.
Picture: Flickr Creative Commons by maskoni
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