U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration > What We Are Saying > Fact Sheets and Newsletters > 2006
Fact Sheet
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
March 3, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions About the Refugee Aspects of the North Korean Human Rights Act

Updated January 10, 2007

The North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 (NKHRA), signed by the President on October 18, 2004, seeks to address the serious human rights situation in North Korea and promote durable solutions for refugees, transparency in the provision of humanitarian assistance, a free flow of information, and progress towards the peaceful reunification on the Korean peninsula.

The following are some frequently asked questions about the refugee-specific aspects of the NKHRA:

1. What is the United States doing to protect and assist North Korean refugees?

The United States has long been concerned about the plight of North Korean refugees. The United States vigorously and consistently urges China to adhere to its international obligations as a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol by not repatriating North Koreans to the DPRK before allowing the UNHCR access to individual members of this vulnerable population. The United States regularly discusses its concerns with China and other governments as well as with the UNHCR and concerned non-governmental and private groups.

Following the enactment of the NKHRA, U.S. embassies in Asia assessed the feasibility of funding new humanitarian assistance programs for North Koreans and establishing refugee admissions programs. Department of State and Department of Homeland Security representatives made several trips to the region to explore mechanisms through which some North Korean refugees might be considered for resettlement in the United States. This effort has been followed by direct engagement with governments in the region and interested organizations. A Special Envoy on Human Rights in North Korea was appointed in fall 2005 to coordinate and promote efforts to improve respect for the fundamental human rights of the people of North Korea.

2. What is the purpose of the Act?

The NKHRA seeks to address the serious human rights situation in North Korea, promote durable solutions for refugees, transparency in the provision of humanitarian assistance, a free flow of information, and progress towards peaceful reunification on the Korean peninsula.

3. What access do North Koreans have to the United States refugee admissions program?

Section 303 of the NKHRA provides that the Secretary of State shall "undertake to facilitate the submission of applications" by citizens of North Korea seeking protection as refugees. The procedures to consider a North Korean national for U.S. resettlement are the same as for nationals from other countries. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and U.S. Embassies and Consulates are encouraged to bring appropriate cases to our attention. Reputable non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can also raise cases with us. As with all refugee cases, host government concurrence is required before we can process a refugee on another country’s territory.

4. How will the State Department process North Korean refugees overseas?

We will process North Korean refugees in the same way we process all refugees. As always, this assumes host government concurrence. A caseworker from one of our Overseas Processing Entities (OPE) will interview the applicant to verify the individuals’ biographical data and document their persecution claim. The OPE will submit the biographical information to the Refugee Processing Center (RPC) in Washington D.C. and request that the applicant’s name be screened for security purposes. Once the security check is complete, an officer from the Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship Immigration Services (DHS/CIS) will interview the applicant to verify that he/she meets the refugee definition and is admissible to the U.S. If DHS/CIS approves the case, the applicant will undergo a medical screening. Next the OPE will submit a request to the RPC for one of ten resettlement agencies in the U.S. to sponsor the case. Finally, depending on the location and logistical considerations, the refugee may receive cultural orientation to familiarize him/her with the basics of life in the U.S. After all of the above mentioned steps are completed, the OPE will put together a travel packet that will allow the refugee to enter the U.S. The length of time it will take to complete all the processing steps will vary from case to case.

5. How will the U.S. Government resettle North Korean refugees in the United States?

North Korean refuges will receive the same support provided all refugees who resettle in the U.S. Once approved for admission, one of ten voluntary agencies participating in the Reception and Placement program (R and P) under a cooperative agreement with the Department of State will sponsor them. The sponsoring agency is responsible for placing refugees with one of its affiliated offices in an appropriate location in the U.S. The agency provides initial services, which include housing, essential furnishing, food, clothing, community orientation and referral to other social and employment services for the refugees’ first 30-90 days in the U.S. Under the R and P program, each refugee receives at least $400 in cash or material goods during this initial transition period. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funds longer-term services and public assistance through the welfare programs of the fifty states – the amount and duration of such support varies from state to state. For example, as of January 1, 2004, a single individual received between $81 and $503 per month; a family of four received between $226 and $1,025 per month. The USG emphasizes early economic self-sufficiency to speed refugee integration in American society.

6. How many North Korean refugees will the United States government resettle and when will that take place?

Every year, the President establishes an overall ceiling and regional sub-ceilings for refugee admissions. There is no pre-determined number of North Koreans (or any other nationality) who will be admitted to the United States through the U.S. refugee program.

7. What are the responsibilities of the Special Envoy for North Korea?

Section 107 of the NKHRA states that the central objective of the Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea is to coordinate and promote efforts to improve respect for the fundamental human rights of the people of North Korea.

8. What reports are required under the NKHRA?

The Act mandates six reports and requires the State Department to add supplemental information to an existing annual report. Three one-time required reports on the status of North Korean refugees, radio broadcasting in North Korea, and humanitarian assistance inside North Korea were submitted to Congress in February 2005. Additional annual reports cover the activities of the Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights (due April 15), humanitarian assistance for North Koreans (due April 15), actions to promote freedom of information (due October 18), and North Korean immigration information (due October 18). Information on access to the U.S. for those who have fled countries of particular concern will be added to the annual report to Congress on the President’s Proposal for refugee admissions in the coming fiscal year. This report is normally issued no later than mid-September.



  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.