(LEAD) House committee passes N. Korean human rights reauthorization act

A committee of the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill Thursday to reauthorize and update the 2004 North Korean Human Rights Act aimed at promoting rights and freedom in the reclusive state. More than a year after its introduction, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs endorsed the bill, raising hopes for its congressional passage this year. It is led by Reps. Young Kim (R-CA) and Ami Bera (D-CA), the chairperson and the ranking member of the Indo-Pacific Subcommittee, respectively. First adopted in 2004, the legislation is updated and reauthorized periodically. It was extended in 2008, 2012 and 2018 with the last extension expiring in September 2022. "(North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un oppresses the North Korean people through torture, imprisonment, starvation, and forced labor every single day. These gross human rights abuses cannot be tolerated," Kim said in a release posted on Bera's website. "Holding authoritarian regimes accountable and supporting freedom-loving people trapped un der their rule are top priorities of mine as chairwoman of the Indo-Pacific Subcommittee," she added. Bera voiced expectations that the legislation will strengthen the United States' commitment to promoting human rights in the North. "North Korea's oppressive regime continues to commit heinous human rights abuses against its own people, including arbitrary detention, forced disappearance, torture, and severe restrictions on freedom of religion and belief," Bera was quoted as saying in the release. The Senate version of the bill has been introduced by Senators Marco Rubio and Tim Kaine. The bill calls for the promotion of human rights and humanitarian assistance for North Korean people and the increase in the flow of information not controlled by the regime in Pyongyang among other activities. Source: Yonhap News Agency