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Evidence of meeting #41 for Subcommittee on International Human Rights in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was maybe.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Norbert Vollertsen  As an Individual
Kyung B. Lee  President, Council for Human Rights in North Korea

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

This is the 41st meeting of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Before we turn to our witnesses, I have a few organizational matters to take care of. The first one is in regard to next Tuesday's meeting. I have spoken to a few of the members of the committee, not all, to suggest that next Tuesday we invite a visiting minister. The Pakistani Minister of Minorities is in Canada and is willing to attend as a witness, if we are willing to have him. That is a suggestion from me. You don't have to accept it, but I'll just ask.

Is that acceptable to the subcommittee?

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Would the Pakistani Minister of Minorities be speaking on our study? We are doing a study that includes Pakistan.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Only in relation to his own country, of course, but yes.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

On the issue of human rights.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Yes, that's right.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

He's not going to be speaking about minority rights and conditions that we have?

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Yes, that's right.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Okay, fine.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Is there consensus?

Madame, c'est bon?

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Yes, Mr. Chair. This is agreeable to me but unanimous consent should perhaps be sought in order to set aside some time for a discussion of our future business. I feel that things are going a bit too fast and there may be some confusion about the issues to be discussed next.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Does everybody agree that we should set aside some time to do that?

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Are you talking about the next meeting?

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

I've suggested the idea of actually setting aside a separate time outside our normal schedule to do that. You may recall I mentioned that before the Christmas break. I could actually set aside a meeting for that, if we chose.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

No, it was just a concern that it would take up time when the minister from Pakistan is here, but if it's a separate meeting, I'm fine with that.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Let's make sure. I'll ask. Is there agreement to have a separate meeting? We would try to find a time that's convenient for everybody. Is everybody cool with that? Okay. So we'll do that. I'll get back to all of you and suggest a time.

The next thing I want to bring up very briefly is that Mr. Devolin, who is sitting with us today, has a motion that is coming before the House. It's scheduled to come shortly. It's on the subject of North Korean refugees. I'm going to ask the clerk to circulate it so that you can all take a look at it. It's just for your advice.

Finally, our analyst has prepared some information regarding the situation with sexual minorities in Uganda, in particular regarding the recent murder of Mr. David Kato in Uganda. That will also be circulated. I'm not inviting discussion on that one; I'm just alerting you that it will be passed around. It is something that is of relevance to what the committee is doing right now.

That business being dealt with, I want to turn to today's witnesses. We have Dr. Norbert Vollertsen and Mr. Kyung B. Lee. Ms. Kim is back again today. Today the two witnesses will be Dr. Vollertsen and Mr. Lee.

The schedule they've put forward is that Dr. Vollertsen will speak first for 15 minutes on the subject of induced starvation. After that, Mr. Lee will speak. He has a petition for parliamentary resolutions.

Let's begin with Dr. Vollertsen, please.

1:10 p.m.

Dr. Norbert Vollertsen As an Individual

Honourable Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for having me.

First of all, I would like to apologize for my maybe poor German physician's pronunciation. Hopefully you can understand. You have a lot of material there in your packages. You can see this is not a garage sale, as I was just asked; these are my documents and evidence. I would like to show them to you. I have so much to tell, but limited time, so I will speed up.

I'm a German emergency doctor--a physician by training. I lived in North Korea for one and a half years. I was a member of Cap Anamur German emergency doctors, and we took care of five different hospitals, ten orphanages, and several hundred kindergartens.

When I entered North Korea I experienced nothing. There were no trees, no birds, no rice, no meat--only a broken, failed state of starving people. When you think about hunger, most of you think about hunger in Africa. It's like Africa, but it's cold outside, like here in Canada right now, and that will kill the people in North Korea--the coldness in winter and no input, no calories, and no heating system. In summer there's diarrhea because of all the bad water. There's contamination all over, and all the people are dying because of spreading infections.

On the conditions in the hospitals, the first Korean word I learned was obsomida , “We don't have anything; it's not available.” Imagine a hospital without any running water. Imagine a hospital without any heating system and it's as cold outside as it is right now here in Canada. Imagine a hospital without any soap, medicine, and patients. Normally all those buildings were empty. When I arrived there were no patients. What would they do there? Why would they go to such a hospital when there was no medicine?

My main medical diagnosis in North Korea was starvation, no medicine, tuberculosis, and all the spreading diseases. But my main observation as a medical doctor, as a general physician by training in Germany, was that there was depression. All the people looked fed up and exhausted, with no future, no hope for any change, drawing propaganda from early daytime until the evening, with parade after parade. They were fed up, and there's a lot of alcoholism and despair.

As a German it was very convenient for me in North Korea, because I could speak in German without an official translator. There are many North Koreans who studied in the former East Germany. They were trained in East Germany. North Korean doctors with East German accents--very funny. I could speak in German to the professors at the university, sometimes in secret in the evening. After some glasses of beer or soju they were quite outspoken about the government. Guess what they told me? They don't like Kim Jong-il. They know that it's mainly the fault of Kim Jong-il that there is no medicine, water, or food.

As a medical doctor it was quite easy to get closer to the people. They always needed assistance, medicine, and friendship. I tried to be different. I didn't want to be like the snobby westerners who know better--especially the Germans. I didn't want to be a stranger. I wanted to make real friendships. It was a huge opportunity to make real friendships.

Because North Korean hospitals lack everything, there is no sophisticated medicine. There is no amputation set, or whatever. They have no treatment for burn patients. Once, a factory worker burned by molten iron was rushed into the hospital. Of course there was no treatment, and he was just hidden in a room. Kibun. The North Koreans didn't want us to see that they couldn't treat him. They were ashamed. So I rushed into the room and wanted to do something. Of course we gave all of our western assistance.

But the North Koreans are doing skin grafts in cases like that. They will donate their own skin. It was an unbelievable scenario. The whole hospital, including the doctors, all their assistants, and the nurses, lined up to donate their skin. I thought, hey, that's an opportunity to create real friendship. Let's create a patchwork North Korean with some western skin and North Korean skin. So my colleague and I also donated our skin. Of course, it was a little bit of a bloody procedure, with no real disinfection and no real anesthesia. But we were recognized as friends.

One week later, we were asked to do it again. Whoops, the whole hospital lined up. Everybody was there. We did it again, and there was state television. Now comes the spin, the North Korean spin. There was state media, and then there was the story of two foreigners who donated their skin--wow, what an act--to show their gratitude to Kim Jong-il. It was something like a true tribute. That was the first time I recognized the North Korean propaganda style. Okay, don't worry, forget about it.

We were rewarded. One month later, we were awarded the so-called North Korean Friendship Medal. It is a high honour. We were the first two foreigners who ever got this high honour. I do not care. I'm not the guy who was carrying this around. I was more interested in this one. This is what I call a North Korean VIP passport. It simply says that I got the friendship medal. Together, I got a driving licence. Wow. You know about North Korea. Normally there is a guide, a minder, a person who will check and care for you, a driver. You are never supposed to go anyplace.

I took my chances. Never ask stupid questions in North Korea, I learned. I took my passport, and I went to Namp'o and Wonsan. Of course, if there is a police stop or there are soldiers on the road, you don't go. And I tried. I showed this, and imagine what happened. As soon as they saw this, I could go through. It worked. My colleagues told me it would work. They were from East Germany. They knew about minders and policemen and soldiers. They would never report to one another when there was an incident. So I maybe abused my possibilities. I walked around. I took a bicycle. I took the subway in Pyongyang, and I drove my car all over North Korea. And I made so many observations. Together with my friendship medal I was invited to many, many facilities: to the guest house of Kim Jong-il, to the military parades. I met high official North Koreans. I got the normal picture of North Korea.

I realized that there is an elite in Pyongyang. There is Japanese sushi, Russian caviar, and French champagne for the elite in Pyongyang. I realized that there are Mercedes-Benz in Pyongyang, a lot of them. I felt quite at home in Pyongyang, sometimes. And I realized that there are two different worlds in Pyongyang.

When I came to the countryside, I saw that there were children starving in the hospitals. They were lying there without any food, without any medicine, in a condition that moved my heart. So I was upset, and I thought that I had to change my attitude maybe. You can stay in North Korea for ten years, and you will not get the real picture. Normally you are guided around, and there are all the monuments and all the official tours. And then you will go to a monument and there will be staged things. All the children are lined up, even with a little bit of makeup and some lipstick, and they are cheering, “Thank you. Kamsahamnida for the food donation.”

I wondered if this was the real picture. Because when you are an emergency doctor, sometimes there are emergency cases, and you have to rush into a hospital with the bloody victim of an accident on your back.

I rushed into the hospital and then there was no medicine any more. There was no food. We had just donated the other day or the week before. I wondered what was going on and where all the international aid was, the German aid, the Canadian aid, the American aid. There were American flags still on the bag. Where was it? Where had it gone?

My colleagues told me, “Norbert, you are an idiot”, and they were right. They said, “Norbert, you are so naive”. My colleagues were from the former East Germany. They told me that I, from West Germany, had maybe never experienced corruption, a communist state where everybody is going to look for his own. He must in order to survive. They told me this was like in East Germany, a Mafia-style society. There are starving children in the countryside and the elite in Pyongyang, in the showcase city, is enjoying a nice lifestyle. I went, in order to prove it, to the black market. I saw rice bags sold there with the American flag still on them. I saw our medicine sold in a hotel. I saw pullovers we donated, a German donation to the kindergartens. I saw these pullovers sold in a diplomatic shop.

As a physician, you are living there in Pyongyang in the international community. You are living in the diplomatic compound and there are many colleagues from Europe, from the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, from other organizations. I am a general physician, but my hobby, so to speak, was psychological advice.

What happened in Pyongyang was I was often asked for psychological advice. Some of my colleagues from the World Food Programme asked me, when they were in trouble, to get help. There was one guy who wanted to commit suicide because he couldn't stand any more that something was going wrong in this country with the food donation, and he was not able to tell his head office, otherwise he would get in trouble.

There was one member of ACF, Action contre la faim, a French organization. She wanted to quit because a milk kitchen in the north of North Korea was not able to donate milk to the ordinary people because it was forbidden by the government because those people in the northern part were not obedient any more. She was an eyewitness to an uprising. She was not allowed to speak out about this in front of journalists, for example, or to speak out in front of her office back in Paris.

So I was a psychological advisor for some of those people who simply collapsed. They had nervous breakdowns because they couldn't stand any more to lie to their head offices, to lie to the world about what they were doing there.

Only then I realized, after one and a half years, that Kim Jong-il was really using food as a weapon against his own people, so I totally changed my attitude. I thought I had to inform the world about this. I had to take the pictures. I moved around. I took a video, which is also included in your package. I took all those pictures in this book and I invited some journalists for a private tour. When Mrs. Albright was in town, in North Korea, in 2000 she was accompanied by many journalists from CNN, BBC, whatever, so I invited them for a private tour. I had my driving licence. Why not? There were 12 of them, and I guided them around and I showed them the Pyongyang Mrs. Albright didn't see. That was the headline of the article the next day in the Washington Post, so that was quite an offence for the North Korean authorities. I was expelled. I was threatened with immediate expulsion, but I was saved by a protest from my head office of the German foreign ministry, so I was allowed to stay.

I documented all that happened then in many diaries. I took many pictures. I took videos and I wrote a protest, a statement of humanitarian principles. I gave it to Tony Hall, a U.S. congressman, when he was in town.

The next week I found a dead soldier in the middle of the road. He was malnourished. He was maybe 17, 18 years old, and he looked like a 10-year-old boy. He was beaten. I am not an expert on torture. I'm a general physician.

My colleague from the former East Germany was a member of Amnesty International. She took care of long-term prisoners in Bautzen, in an East German prison camp. She showed me the cigarette burns and where he was beaten and whipped.

I'm naive, I'm an idiot. I wanted to take a picture and I was immediately taken aside, my camera was confiscated, of course the film was eliminated, and that was the end of my friendship. I was expelled.

In December 2000 I was expelled. Instead of going home and doing business as usual, I went to South Korea. I gave interviews to the journalists. I gave lectures. I wanted to inform the world, mainly the South Korean students, the younger generation. I've written four books so far.

As a German, of course I also know about German history and the impact of refugees. I thought, maybe I have to get the real picture. Maybe I have to go to China. I heard about North Korean refugees. When I was inside North Korea, I never had any idea about refugees. Of course I was never allowed to go to any concentration camps, like the one Ms. Kim was in.

I had no idea. I was naive. I was invited by some activists to go to China, to the Chinese-North Korean border. I met many refugees. I interviewed them. Mainly I took medical care of them, of course, but I also spoke to them. I interviewed them via a translator.

I went to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand. I gave more and more refugee assistance. I stayed at least seven years in South Korea and Southeast Asia to take care of the people.

I realized that I really do not know anything of North Korea. Inside North Korea you cannot get the real picture. You have to have witnesses like Ms. Kim.

I learned about the power of the media too. I believe in publicity stunts. Therefore we decided how to inform the world. Nowadays the media need a breaking story.

We decided to storm some western embassies. It had worked for the East German refugees in Prague and Hungary, so maybe it would also work for the North Koreans. So we stormed the Spanish embassy in Beijing with 27 refugees, in front of CNN. Maybe it worked.

I went to the Tumen River and saw all these corpses in the river. I saw people who were shot at the border. I was shocked again. More and more I realized that North Korea is a failed state, led by a master clan.

You all know about German history. We Germans were responsible for Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau. Whenever I'm in Washington at the Holocaust Memorial Museum I'm ashamed to be German. I hope that nobody--the students--will recognize my German accent.

After Dachau, Treblinka, Auschwitz, we Germans told the whole world, “Never again”. But it's happening again, right now. Ms. Kim was there. We Germans were accused of failing to act, to speak up, to speak out about the atrocities going on in Germany with the Jews. So I have to talk about the real picture in North Korea. I have to talk about induced starvation, about crimes against humanity, the killing fields of today. I will even call it the unknown genocide, because Kim Jong-il is using food as a weapon against his own people. I can prove that.

I took these images in a North Korean children's hospital. These are not pictures from Auschwitz or Treblinka. This is the reality in North Korea nowadays, in a North Korean children's hospital. You can only imagine, when those are the children in the children's hospital, how it might look in Ms. Kim's institute, in the concentration camps.

Those children looked so sad, so hopeless.

And what should I do? I'm a medical doctor. Should I give some anti-depressiva, some injections, so they will smile again? No. I can't.

I have to take a political mandate. I have to change something. Therefore, I'm standing here in front of you, because my own country, Germany, unfortunately does not take so much care. Maybe they simply do not know about North Korea. I'm here in Canada, and I beg you, the people of Canada and the politicians, to do something. The children in North Korea are waiting for your help.

Thank you.

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Thank you, Dr. Vollertsen.

Mr. Lee, please.

1:30 p.m.

Kyung B. Lee President, Council for Human Rights in North Korea

My name is Kyung B. Lee. As the representative of the Council for Human Rights in North Korea, an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization located in Toronto, I express my sincere thanks to the members of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights for allowing me the opportunity to present this formal petition. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee.

Today and the day before yesterday, Dr. Vollertsen and Mrs. Kim gave testimony on the horrendous situation that they experienced and that I witnessed at first hand in North Korea: the “worst of the worst”, as Washington-based Freedom House described it. Simply put, the so-called Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a failed and failing state, in that it is not only unable but also unwilling to feed and protect its own people.

It is also a rogue state, in that internally it is perpetrating crimes against its own people and externally is engaging in terrorism and terrorism-sponsored activities, committing acts of aggression, and developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, threatening regional and world peace.

In other words, North Korea is no longer a state in terms of morality and human security; it has lost statehood. It is still a state, though, militarily and ideologically, with its “military first” policy and chuche ideology.

In dealing with North Korean issues, the international community is more concerned about the security issue than the human rights issue. The human rights issue is rather overshadowed, I would say, by the security issue. Rightly so, perhaps, because we tend to take care of our own national or regional security first, before we think of the human security of others.

History tells us that nations that respect the rights of their citizens are less likely to turn to belligerence as a first resort, and vice versa. As the former special envoy for human rights in North Korea under the Bush administration, Jay Lefkowitz, said: with Hitler, Stalin, and others, “the march of tyranny at home was an antecedent to international aggression”.

On the other hand, no two democracies that value freedom and human rights have ever gone to war with each other. The relationship between Canada and the United States is a good example, I think. We Canadians don't feel threatened by the United States, our neighbour, which has perhaps hundreds or thousands of weapons of mass destruction, because the two countries share the same values--that is, freedom, human rights, and democracy.

In other words--and I will quote Lefkowitz again--“Focusing on human rights goes far beyond being a moral imperative”. He says it is a practical means to deal with the security issue as well.

I understand that our Canada has done a lot for human rights in North Korea, multilaterally and bilaterally, such as the co-sponsoring of the UN resolution, participation in the universal periodic review, and raising the issue at the ambassadorial levels.

Today I want to petition, based on the testimonies made, that further studies be made, if necessary, on behalf of the Korean Canadian community in Toronto that Canada do more. Specifically, I want to petition the subcommittee to move a parliamentary resolution on the human rights situation of North Koreans. I think Canada has a moral obligation to do so as an international leader in human rights and as a people's defender of freedom, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law at home and abroad.

Some 60 years ago Canada volunteered in the Korean War in order to defend the same values. The mission isn't finished just yet, in the sense that the northern part of the Korean Peninsula is still not free, not democratized.

North Korea usually snubs a UN resolution, calling it a U.S.-led political plot to topple the so-called highly respected style of our socialist system. Under the circumstances, a Canadian resolution, if passed by the Parliament of Canada, which has no direct military interest in the Korean Peninsula, would have a great impact on the international community and would serve as a huge pressure on the North Korean regime.

As to the contents of such a resolution, we have for reference resolutions the UN Generally Assembly adopted; recommendations Canada urged at the universal periodic review; recommendations the former UN special rapporteur advised; recommendations that the International Parliamentarians' Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights adopted; three private members' motions moved by Mr. Barry Devolin, the Honourable Judy Sgro, and Mr. Peter Julian; two resolutions our council adopted at the North Korean human rights forum two years ago; and our petition to Parliament for the dismantlement of North Korean gulags. I hope that all of these resolutions, recommendations, and petitions are reflected and incorporated into the parliamentary resolution, hopefully to be moved by this subcommittee.

We, the Council for Human Rights in North Korea, would be very pleased to contribute to the drafting of such a resolution, if invited, by making a written submission.

[Witness speaks in Korean]

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

We have time for five-minute rounds of questions and answers. I encourage members to remember that the period of five minutes includes the answers, so it's always good to have a concise question.

Before we do this, however, I just want to say to Dr. Vollertsen that normally, when people present materials at committee, as they were doing today, we request that they table those materials. If our clerk could contact you after this meeting is over and arrange to get copies of those photographs, we would be very grateful. They could then go into the record of the committee.

Let's turn first to Mr. Silva.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to begin by thanking Dr. Vollertsen and Mr. Lee for being here, as well as Madam Kim, whose testimony we heard last Tuesday. I think all of us were very moved by her testimony, as we are today as we continue with this issue.

We want to once again thank the witness for shining a light on a very dark place. As Dr. Vollertsen said, very few of us know what's happening there, and it's intentional why we don't know. The government there does not want us to know the reality, and also doesn't want its people to know the reality.

I'm struck by the testimony and the sheer magnitude of the suffering of the Korean people. My heart goes out to them. We want to know what we can do. At the same time, I want to hear the perspective from Dr. Vollertsen or Mr. Lee, because they know more about what's happening there than we do.

In the last little while we've seen what's taking place in the Middle East. The people there are rising up against dictators. I want to know if there is a sense in Korea of a people's revolution possibly coming up. Was there any group of dissent that you felt there, that people would rise up against this totalitarian regime?

1:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Dr. Norbert Vollertsen

Once in the middle of 1999 I was standing in the front of the subway in Pyongyang, and there was a mass performance, all the soldiers and it was whatever--a birthday of Kim Il-sung.... There are so many festivities in Pyongyang. So all the people lined up, and thousands and thousands of people wanted to go home right after midnight. It was a rush. They all were fed up with this long, long military parade and cheering—orchestrated—so nobody wanted to stay any longer. So the people were pushing forward, forward, let's go home, and then there was, of course, order imposed by the policemen and subway personnel. And all of a sudden there were some fights. Fists and pushing further and then some shouts and then the first bloody nose. And I am a medical doctor in the middle of this. I wanted to help an old lady falling down, for example. And then there was a real.... I had never had this experience; I was feeling maybe like today in Egypt, in the middle of the mob, like Mr. Anderson Cooper here in the middle of the square.

It was like the beginning of the revolution. There were people fighting the policemen. They couldn't stop them any more. They wanted to go to the subway. They wanted to go home. There were soldiers, of course, coming in, and the people didn't care. They ripped off the uniforms, got the knives or whatever, and some...not machine guns, of course. That happened five minutes later. Then there were the guys with the machine guns and then there was order, of course.

But that was my experience. It can happen in North Korea anytime. There are people who are angry about the government. There are people who are very well aware about you. They know about the outside world. They are listening to radios. Whenever my interpreter came into our office, the first thing he asked was if we had some German newspapers and if we could listen to BBC or CNN or whatever, Voice of America, in the morning, secretly. He wanted to get the information.

And guess what? Once I was invited to one of those fashionable dinner parties and there was one high-ranking official. I forget his name. He was sitting there and he told us that of course we know we have to change; we have to get reform, economics and so on, but because of the boycott of the foreigners we can't. But you know what? There is one real natural disaster—and the North Koreans are always talking about natural disasters, flooding, drought, whatever—there is one real natural disaster and that we can't stop. And I looked behind him and you know, in every North Korean room there are two portraits, one of Kim Il-sung, the founder, and one of Kim Jong-il. He looked at those pictures and said “This natural disaster we can't stop”. That was his comment on the situation, a high official person.

Some people, as I told you, when they were drinking in the evening—a little bit of soju, a little bit of whiskey, a little bit of beer—were quite outspoken. They told me in the German language that they disliked Kim Jong-il, that they hate him, that they know he is responsible, that they think he is a spoiled rotten playboy and he does not deserve to be the leader of the state. They think he is responsible. And I can give you the guarantee that you will see the same pictures as in Egypt, one day, in Pyongyang. I'm absolutely sure about that.

But you have to trigger it. They need the information. They need the information that you will care. I was told later by East German people, East German refugees, East German relatives of mine, that the best encouragement for the East German movement to freedom was when there was some real support from the outside world, some people who cared, and some people who spoke up against Honecker, at that time.

So there is a need for some government to speak up against Kim Jong-il.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Scott Reid

Unfortunately, that uses up Mr. Silva's time.

Ms. Deschamps, you have the floor.

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Five minutes is not much when so many questions come to mind.

Dr. Vollertsen, I thought your testimony was astounding. Living in a society blessed with wealth and abundance, I wonder, sitting in this chair, how it could be that there is still hunger in the world and that children are starving when we are able to send ships into space, on Mars and to the moon. I was shocked by what I heard today. The main question that comes to my mind is the following.

Mr. Lee, it seems the international community, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, offered tools and support to North Korea. But being the rogue state that it is, North Korea always rejected the helping hand of the international community. Why didn’t the international community retaliate against North Korea, which has South Korea and China as neighbours but still remains a rogue state? This country whose population is starving almost by order of its government, this rogue regime that supports terrorism must be getting some kind of help from external forces.

1:50 p.m.

President, Council for Human Rights in North Korea

Kyung B. Lee

First of all, in North Korea they publicly profess to have a military-first policy. Everything you have goes to the military first. The international community provides aid--clothes, food, or whatever. We send them those things in the name of humanitarianism, but often aid that is received by the North Korean regime becomes military aid. Everything goes to the military first. Nothing remains to go to the suffering people. That is the dilemma. Still, we have to care about the starving people.

I meet a lot of refugees from North Korea, and most of them say we shouldn't provide aid that will be fed to the military. Some say--as Mrs. Kim witnessed the other day--if aid is to be given it should be in the form of food for animals, not ordinary rice, because ordinary people there eat animal food, not ordinary rice. I haven't been there, but I hear a lot about that.

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Does humanitarian help go directly through government? Are civil society organizations or foreign NGOs allowed to distribute food locally to those who need it most?