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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Civil and Political Rights in the Republic of Korea: Implications for Human Rights on the Peninsula

Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 10:00am
Virtual via Cisco Webex


Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on freedom of expression on the Korean peninsula.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK or North Korea, a closed authoritarian state led by the Kim family since 1949, is widely recognized as having an extremely poor human rights record. In its latest Freedom in the World report, Freedom House ranks DPRK as “not free” with a score of 3 out of a possible 100. Although the DPRK constitution provides for freedom of expression and the press, the State Department reports that the government prohibits the exercise of these rights.

In contrast, the Republic of Korea, ROK or South Korea, is a constitutional democracy governed by a president and unicameral legislature in elections considered free and fair. Freedom House ranks ROK as “free” with a score of 83 out of a possible 100, the same score received by the United States. However, for decades credible nonpartisan observers have raised concerns about some measures taken by governments of all political stripes in Seoul that appear to restrict certain civil and political rights, including freedom of expression in South Korea. Recently, international attention has focused on a controversial “anti-leaflet law” passed by the National Assembly last December. Some observers have expressed concerns that the law could interfere with efforts to promote human rights in North Korea, including programs funded by the U.S. government, such as by disseminating USB drives containing information about the outside world.

The ROK is an important economic and strategic partner for the United States in Asia.  The U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty, signed in 1953 at the end of the Korean War, commits the United States to help South Korea defend itself from North Korea. South Korea currently hosts 28,500 U.S. troops. 

This hearing will examine the role of the right to freedom of expression and the exercise of other rights in the broader context of inter-Korean, U.S.-ROK relations, and U.S.-DPRK relations, including strategies for advancing human rights in North Korea.

This hearing will be virtual. Pursuant to H. Res. 965, Members of Congress and witnesses who wish to participate remotely may do so via Cisco WebEx. Members of the public and the media may view the hearing by live webcast on the Commission website. The hearing will also be available for viewing on the House Digital Channel service. For any questions, please contact Piero Tozzi at 202-225-3765 (for Rep. Smith) or Kimberly Stanton at 202-805-6308 (for Rep. McGovern).   

Hosted by:

Christopher H. Smith
Member of Congress
Co-Chair, TLHRC
James P. McGovern
Member of Congress
Co-Chair, TLHRC

Opening Remarks


Panel I


117th Congress