Marco Rubio meets South Korean human–rights activists during Asia-Pacific tour

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio met today with South Korean human rights advocates, including a man born and raised in a North Korean prison camp, in one of the final stops of a weeklong tour around the Asia-Pacific region.

On Friday, the Miami Senator visited Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known person to have been born in a North Korean prison camp, spending his entire life imprisoned.

Dong-hyuk was born in 1982, escaped in 2005 and lived to tell his story.

His biography, Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West, was written by former Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden.

“Being raised in and representing a community of Cuban exiles, I have friends, constituents and visitors to my office who know what oppression is because of their experiences as political prisoners in Castro’s gulags,” Rubio said. “Hearing firsthand accounts of the human rights violations that occur in North Korea affected me on a personal level.

On Saturday, Rubio visited other South Korean human rights activists and non-governmental organizations (NGO) to discuss how to promote global understanding about the repressive North Korean regime.

“Shin Dong-hyuk’s story was especially impactful, as it reveals to the world how the North Korean regime not only tries to break individuals’ spirits but also destroys families with its cruel tactics,” Rubio added. “Kim Jong-un’s complete disregard for human rights and people’s dignity is unacceptable, and a shameful inheritance from his father and grandfather.”

Rubio is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

“As democratic nations, we have a moral responsibility to forge lasting and meaningful relationships, bound by values of individual liberty and peace that put ending such atrocities at the top of our shared agenda,” Rubio concluded.

During his tour, Rubio’s first official visit to the Korean Peninsula since elected to Congress, the Senator visited Japan and the Philippines, where he observed recovery efforts in Tacloban, a city devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. He also faced North Korean troops briefly during an outing to the Korean de-militarized zone.

Rubio gave a 45-minute speech Friday at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, focusing on issues of freedom, liberty and regional security in the Korean Peninsula.

Finishing his tour will be a meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Regular updates on activities throughout the trip are on Rubio’s personal Twitter account @MarcoRubio, as well as posted photos and information on his website. 

Photos courtesy of Sen. Marco Rubio:     


Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.