North Korean Refugees Escape Sex Slavery, Arrive in U.S.

Six refugees from North Korea have arrived in the United States, the first accepted under the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, Sen. Sam Brownback said Saturday.

The six refugees arrived at an undisclosed U.S. location Friday night from a Southeast Asian nation, which Brownback did not name. They included four women who had been sold to sexual slavery or forced marriages, he said.

Brownback, R-Kan., would not identify from which nation they came because of worries about security for the families of the refugees and to avoid diplomatic complications with the country that sent them.

The issue of North Korean human rights has gained attention in Washington as international diplomatic efforts to curb North Korea's self-announced nuclear weapons production program have stalled.

President Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union address, branded North Korea one of the three members of the "axis of evil," along with Iran and Iraq. Until now no refugees from the reclusive Stalinist state had been accepted into the United States.

In 2004, Congress passed the North Korean Human Rights Act, part of which specified that the State Department would make it easier for North Koreans to try for refugee status in the United States.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans are believed to have fled across their border into China.