In a press conference held at the Seoul Press Center on Wednesday, Lee Chul-seung, chairman of the Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation, said, “We selected Scholte as the winner this year for her contribution to improving human rights of North Korean residents and North Korean refugees, and bettering the status of refugees in Western Sahara.”
“When the Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung governments, and countries (which took the closest interest in Korea) turned their face away from North Korean refugees and the human rights situation in North Korea for political reasons, Scholte contributed to letting the international community know about the conditions of North Korean refugees and the North Korean human rights situation and drew attention to such issues.” [Chosun Ilbo]
The prize will be awarded in Seoul on October 7th. Suzanne, whom I’ve known for five years now, is one of those people whose dedication is inexhaustible. Though her cause was ignored by most Democrats and ultimately betrayed by a Republican President, Suzanne tirelessly lobbied congressmen, the State Department, religious leaders, and other NGO’s to earn their support and build enduring alliances. Among her close collaborators is activist-scholar-svengali Chuck Downs, who is now Executive Director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (Suzanne sits on the board of that body as well). She was one of the driving forces behind the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. No one on earth with a serious interest in promoting human rights in North Korea does not know Suzanne; many, including myself, were brought to this cause by her. No doubt, the prize money will be well-spent for good causes.
This award also speaks volumes of how Seoul’s view of the world has changed, and that shift is now starting to manifest itself in the ways Seoul’s influence is seen in Washington. In the past, such groups as the Korea Society, the Korea Economic Instite, and the Korea Foundation had all promoted and supported the appeasement of North Korea. Can some overdue reorientations in those groups be far behind?