North Korean Refugees in China and Human Rights Issues: International Response and U.S. Policy Options [Updated January 18, 2008] [open pdf - 2MB]
"The increased international attention given to the situation of North Koreans seeking refuge, primarily in China, has led Congress to take a greater interest in the refugee situation and the underlying causes within North Korea and across its borders. Food shortages, persecution, and human rights abuses have prompted thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of North Koreans to go to China where they often become victims of further abuse, neglect, and lack of protection. Those who remain in North Korea […] also continue to suffer from a lack of food and other basic humanitarian provisions. […] North Korea has been viewed as a threat to U.S. interests for a number of important security reasons that go well beyond refugee concerns and human rights issues. These include the pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile programs; a history of proliferating missiles; reported threats to export parts of its self-declared nuclear arsenal; and possible possession of chemical and biological weapons programs. North Korea is also on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. Amid an atmosphere of continuing tensions over North Korea's nuclear program, the potential remains for worsening humanitarian conditions and a possible increase in North Koreans fleeing the country. The situation raises the questions of what more, if anything, can and should be done -- by the United States and the international community -- not only to focus attention on the abuses of the DPRK regime, but to alleviate the suffering of North Koreans."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34189