North Korea recently received cautious praises for the turnover of its nuclear program declaration, but some people are dissatisfied with the positive response and want the rogue government to be pressed more to improve its humanitarian problems.
A group of American families of prisoners of war and those missing in action from the Korean War (1950-1953) are among those that want North Korea to show a more humane image in its efforts to join the international community.
Both the Korea-Cold War Families of the Missing and the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families are demanding an account for the more than 8,000 American POWs and MIAs from the Korean War as they call on the Bush Administration to press the regime for answers.
"The United States must not drop North Korea as a 'State Sponsor of Terrorism' until it takes a significant first step in accounting for our lost heroes and agrees to a detailed program of accounting for American POWs and MIAs, starting with those captured alive but not returned at the end of the war and the 'survivors' and 'war criminals' mentioned by the North as remaining alive after the war," said the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen (National Alliance of Families/NAF) and Korea-Cold War Families of the Missing, in a statement released Monday.
President Bush had said last week that he plans to remove North Korea from a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism after receiving news that the country has handed over a long-delayed report of its nuclear activities.
Bush added, however, that the move to ease U.S. sanctions is mostly symbolic because North Korea will continue to remain one of the most heavily sanctioned nations in the world.
But Bill Sowles, son of Korean War POW/MIA SFC (Sergeant First Class) Lewis Sowles, who disappeared in North Korea in 1950, said, "My father would be astonished to know North Korea has been dropped from 'Trading with the Enemy' status and is now poised to get other major diplomatic concessions with absolutely no requirement to account for him and his lost colleagues."
Meanwhile Japan, which is among the nations participating in the six party talks, has made the return of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea as one of its main conditions for providing aid and improving bilateral relations with its long-time enemy.
"The United States will never forget the abduction of Japanese citizens by the North Koreans. We will continue to closely cooperate and coordinate with Japan and press North Korea to swiftly resolve the abduction issue," Bush said last week.
POW/MIA groups say that while they strongly support efforts to account for Japanese abductees, they hope President Bush and Congress will do the same for American prisoners and those missing from the Korean War.
Besides its POW/MIA problem, North Korea is also being called to improve treatment of its own citizens. North Koreans are one of the most oppressed people in the world, who lack even the most basic rights as citizens.
North Koreans have absolutely no religious freedom and are forced to adhere to a personality cult revolving around Dictator Kim Jong-Il and his deceased father. Being found a Christian or possessing a Bible in North Korea is one of the worst crimes and those found guilty of the charge have been publicly executed.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its 2008 annual report, recommended the State Department to continue to blacklist North Korea for its religious freedom violations. North Korea, according to USCIRF, should remain on the "Country of Particular Concern" list – which could result in U.S. sanctions against the oppressive state.
In addition to no religious freedom, North Korean citizens are also forbidden to leave the country or criticize the government. Those who have been captured after fleeing to China are imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. Likewise, political prisoners face the same dire fate.
On Tuesday, U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-Moon said he would soon visit North Korea to further discuss the regime's denuclearization progress, according to The Associated Press. He described North Korea's handover of a declaration of its nuclear program and the destruction of a cooling tower last week as "very encouraging."