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U.S. Department
of State

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 30, 2004

[ ... ]

QUESTION: Richard, yesterday you guys put out your announcement about the annual Diversity Lottery -- Visa Diversity Lottery -- 50,000 --. And as with the year before, it's all -- has to be done by -- through the internet, no paper submissions. And as I asked last year, I'm just wondering if you guys have thought about the -- if you've noticed, thought about, and/or noticed any implications of this --

MR. BOUCHER: This is --

QUESTION: -- given the fact that a large number, a large segment of the world's population doesn't have access to the internet, or much less a computer. And in particular, don't you find it perhaps a bit cruel that you include North Korea as a country from where people can submit these applications when your own Human Rights Report says that internet access in North Korea is limited to high-ranking officials with "the need to know," and that the government monitors all kinds of electronic exchanges.

Are these the people that you're looking for from North Korea to come to this country?

MR. BOUCHER: Matt, where should I begin? (Laughter.) All right, number one, two months ago we put out the results -- maybe it was three or four months ago, how time flies.

QUESTION: That was the last one.

MR. BOUCHER: We put out the results of the last time -- of the last round. At that time, I think we made very, very clear that we had studied carefully the internet application process, and we had had very, very similar percentages of applicants from different countries and areas as we had with the paper process, that there was apparently no drop-off from developing countries or so-called disadvantaged areas in countries that we have had a, I think, a very sound number of applications and the same basic proportions of applications from different places as we had with the paper process; and overall, it was more secure and more convenient and more efficient for all of us to do it that way.

I think, as you know, many, many countries, even if there's not widespread internet access, that people that need to get a machine for some time can get to an internet café, which we've seen in our travels all around the world.

QUESTION: I don't recall any in Pyongyang.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't recall any in Pyongyang, either, so I'll deal with the question of North Korea as well.

You'll also remember, from your study of these lotteries over many years, that the identification of nations is the place of birth of the applicant, not necessarily his current place of residence, and there are many North Koreans who are -- no longer reside in North Korea who would be eligible under those conditions and we want to make sure that this lottery's available to them. We would certainly wish that people in North Korea still would have the opportunity as well, but the fact that it applies to North Koreans in practical terms this way means it applies -- that North Koreans who are still in their country, North Koreans who are out of their country have the ability to apply.

I know there are severe restrictions on the internet use in North Korea, but frankly, there are a lot of restrictions on people sending letters to the U.S. Government as well. So I'm not sure that the choice of medium would affect the inability of people in North Korea to apply.

QUESTION: And the results that you just talked about, you are -- you have them there? You will -- how many North Koreans applicants were there?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.

QUESTION: There were four.

MR. BOUCHER: Is that right?

QUESTION: Yes. According to what you posted up there. Now, unfortunately, the results for previous lotteries don't seem to be easily accessible on the website so I can't tell whether there is a -- whether that marks a -- if it stayed the same or if it's a noticeable decrease.

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know --

QUESTION: But certainly, I would think that there are probably, given the desperate situation in North Korea, more than four North Koreans who would like to apply for a U.S. lottery -- a visa --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure there are more than four North Koreans who would have liked to apply in previous years by letter, many of which were not able to. I don't know what the numbers are for previous years. But I think it's generally understood that given the conditions in North Korea that people inside North Korea will find it very difficult to apply by whatever means, and the choice of the means of application is not necessarily disadvantaging them; it's their government's policies and practices that's a disadvantage to them.