Bill on North Korean children headed to ObamaWASHINGTON - A bill on protecting “stateless children” from North Korea was sent to U.S. President Barack Obama’s desk Tuesday for his signature after both chambers of Congress passed it.
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill, entitled “An act to develop a strategy for assisting stateless children from North Korea, and for other purposes.”
The bill, also dubbed “North Korean Child Welfare Act of 2012,” notes that hundreds of thousands of North Korean children suffer from malnutrition in the communist nation.
It also says many North Korean children become orphaned or stateless in neighboring nations, mainly China.
A steady number of North Koreans flee their hunger-stricken nation with their children. Concerns grow that those children are being left without proper care.
The bill, approved by the Senate last week, instructs the secretary of state to prioritize the growing problem of North Korean children who live in precarious conditions in countries outside of North Korea.
It calls for the secretary to “advocate for the best interests of these children, including, when possible, facilitating immediate protection for those living outside North Korea through family reunification or, if appropriate and eligible in individual cases, domestic or international adoption.”
It also demands that the secretary designate a representative to regularly brief Congress on the U.S. government’s efforts to protect North Korean children.
Ed Royce, a Republican congressman of California and the author of the bill, described the congressional move as an “important step in helping some of the world’s most endangered children.”
“It is little wonder that tens of thousands - mostly women - flee to China, seeking just a modicum of freedom. For many, it is a last resort; it is a final chance to avoid starvation and unspeakable oppression,” Royce said in a statement. “Sadly, many don’t survive the ordeal, leaving behind children.”
Last year, he proposed the “North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011.”
It was approved by the House earlier this year, but the Senate made some changes to it, requiring the House to vote on the revised version.
The modified bill calls for the U.S. government to develop a broader strategy for assisting North Korean children.
Royce will begin his two-year tenure as the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday.
He also co-chairs the International Parliamentarians Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights.