American Rights Activist Wins 2008 Seoul Peace Prize

Long-time human rights activist Suzanne Scholte became the 9th Seoul Peace Prize laureate Tuesday for her work promoting freedom and human rights for the North Korean people and the Sharawi refugees of Western Sahara.

In her acceptance speech, Scholte called for countries to offer safe asylum to North Korean refugees and asked that human rights be the priority in international talks with the rogue regime.

"Now, I believe there is a holocaust going on right now in North Korea," said Scholte, president of the Defense Forum Foundation. "Today, we know that Kim Jong-il is committing genocide by targeting specific groups for extermination - specifically those he deems disloyal.

She said North Korea has the worst human rights situation in the world today, and pointed out that more than 3 million North Korans have already died from starvation because of Kim's diversion of food aid.

"How many more North Koreans need to die before we recognize and stop these atrocities?" she asked.

She contends that past policies such as the Agreed Framework, the Sunshine policy, the Engagement policy and the six-party talks have all failed in resolving the atrocities in North Korea.

She called instead for more support for the activities of North Korean defectors such as Free North Korea radio, balloon launches of pamphlets, and help for the North Koran defector churches established in South Korea.

North Korea is one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Citizens of the communist state are forced to adhere to a personality cult that revolves around worshipping current dictator Kim Jong Il and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung.

According to witnesses and human rights reports, the North Korean regime is particularly harsh on Christians, who are considered a serious threat to its power. There are many reports of Christians being publicly executed, tortured or imprisoned indefinitely simply for believing in Jesus Christ.

Around 200,000 Christians are believed to currently be in prison labor camps for their faith. Earlier this year, North Korea was listed for the sixth straight year as the No. 1 worst Christian persecutor by watchdog group Open Doors.

Scholte recalled times when she cried out to God in frustration "asking Him why He had made North Korea such a central focus of my life where people were experiencing such tremendous pain and suffering."

"God gently reminded me that many years ago I had prayed that He would break my heart for the things that were breaking His heart," she said. "I know that what is happening to the people of North Korea is breaking God's heart."

She concluded by pledging that with God's help she will do all that she can in her life to help the North Korean people and the Sahrawi people until they are free.