Trump administration’s extreme vetting not kind to North Korean escapees seeking a new life in the US
Barely a week into his presidency, officials huddled by his side, Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769 into law. The bureaucratic title sounds harmless enough, but many Americans quickly learned to call it by another name: the Muslim ban.
Already arriving in small numbers, at that point the flow of North Koreans migrating to America then slowed to a crawl.
Back in 2004, the Bush administration pushed the North Korean Human Rights Act through Congress, promising to provide “assistance to North Korean refugees, defectors, migrants, and orphans outside of North Korea” and bolstered by $20 million in annual funding, and a promise to classify North Korean escapees as proper refugees.
Yet the numbers of North Koreans coming to America remained low. “Over the past 13 years, there have been a dozen, maybe two-dozen, people coming every year,” says Sokeel Park, the South Korea country director at Liberty in North Korea, an NGO.
According to statistics compiled by the Refugee Processing Centre (RFC), an average of 20 North Koreans refugees were admitted to the United States each year in the decade to 2016.
In 2017, the first year after the election of President Trump, only a single North Korean refugee landed on American shores.
2018 saw a slight recovery, back up to six.