Lab Report: Deadly VX-chemical nerve agent used to murder Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur Airport

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have identified the type of chemical used in the murder of Kim Jong-nam as the highly toxic VX-nerve agent.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the Centre for Chemical Weapons Analysis at the Chemistry Department carried out preliminary tests to identify the type of chemical used in the murder.

“The centre did dry swabs on the eyes and face of the victim

“The chemical substance on the exhibits has been identified as VX-Nerve-Agent,” Khalid said in a statement on Friday.

He added that VX is classified as a chemical weapon under the Schedule 1 of the Chemical Weapons Convention Act 2005 and Chemical Weapons Convention Act 1997 READ ENTIRE ARTICLE:  http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/02/24/kim-jong-nam-nvx-nerve-agent-chemical-used-in-murder/

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Grieving son of assassinated Kim Jong Nam wary of North Korea’s penchant for execution; his dilemma underscores urgency to assist all North Koreans in crisis!

Malaysia police in Macau to obtain DNA sample from Kim Jong Nam’s son Kim Han Sol: Report

THESTRAITSTIMES    KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia police officials have flown to Macau where they are expected to obtain within days an DNA sample from Mr Kim Jong Nam’s son, Malaysia media reported, but the claim was on Thursday (Feb 23) dismissed by the police chief.

Citing sources, the Chinese-language China Press and Sin Chew dailies reported on Wednesday (Feb 22) that Mr Kim Han Sol, 21, had agreed to provide a DNA sample to Malaysia police investigating the sensational assassination of Kim Jong Nam, in an arrangement facilitated by Interpol.

Sin Chew said three of Malaysia’s Interpol officers flew to Macau on Wednesday with Mr Kim Jong Nam’s DNA sample, which would be analysed together with the sample provided by his son – who is afraid to fly to Malaysia for fear of his safety – at a local hospital.READ MORE: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-police-to-fly-to-macau-to-obtain-dna-sample-from-kim-jong-nams-son-kim-han-sol

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CBS 60 Minutes:”Don’t underestimate Kim Jong-un,” says North Korean defector

 As HHK_Catacombs marks 21 years of assisting North Koreans in crisis, the following article clearly illustrates the urgent and ongoing need for public support of the ‘underground railroad’ that helps defectors to safety—–HHK Director)

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dont-underestimate-kim-jong-un-says-north-korean-defector/

The highest ranking North Korean to defect in decades warns against underestimating the threat posed by his county’s dictator Kim Jong-un. Thae Yong-ho, formerly North Korea’s deputy ambassador in London, speaks to Bill Whitaker for a story that takes viewers to the front lines in a tense and continuous standoff between nuclear-armed North Korea and U.S. ally South Korea that dates back to 1953. Whitaker’s report from Seoul, South Korea, and from the border with North Korea will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thae fears Kim will kill him; just a few days ago, the dictator’s estranged half-brother was poisoned in Malaysia in a murder believed carried out by North Korean agents. Thae had several bodyguards around him when Whitaker spoke to him. “Kim Jong-un’s capability to wreak harm , not only to America, but also South Korea and the world, should not be underestimated,” says Thae.Besides its nuclear arsenal, North Korea has 10,000 artillery pieces aimed at the South Korean capital of Seoul and its surrounding areas containing a population of 28 million. The U.S. maintains a fighting force of 28,000 in Seoul in support of its ally.

Whitaker went to the tense border, or DMZ, where both nation’s soldiers stare down each other on a daily basis. He donned body armor as a precaution. And no wonder: The North has incurred on the South many times – sometimes killing South Korean soldiers – safe in the notion that neither the South nor the U.S. will retaliate in fear of a nuclear war. Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. military presence in South Korea, says “What it takes to go from the condition we’re in at this moment to hostilities again is literally the matter of a decision on North Korea’s side to say fire,” he says.

Electricity is scarce and so is food for many North Koreans, but Kim devotes a quarter of his country’s meager economy to military spending. Gen. Brooks says he takes such a belligerent posture for the survival of his regime and to get recognition as a dangerous foe. If the dictator were ever to use a nuclear weapon, says the general, “It will be met with an effective and overwhelming response.”

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Chilling Mafia-style assassination of Kim Jong Nam highlights ongoing need to rescue as many defectors as possible!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-china-a-sense-of-betrayal-after-the-assassination-of-kim-jong-nam/2017/02/17/434d7626-f4f0-11e6-8873-a962f11835fb_story.html?utm_term=.39621dbd38e6

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Starting new lives! Despite growing pains in resettlement, North Korean defectors seize freedom and opportunities in the South.

Why HHK does what it does along the Asian Underground Railroad……..

PBS: North Korean defectors create new lives in South Korea

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United Nations Day Commemoration: Invocation Recognizes Divine Intervention during Korean War and its Aftermath

“Behind the outcome of the Korean War’s conflict, Lord, and South Korea’s extraordinary economic prosperity in the following 63 years, we recognize Your guidance, protection and blessing.May we never forget King David’s sobering words in Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborer toils in vain;unless the Lord watches the city, the watchman guards it but in vain.”(READ MORE of HHK Director’s invocation prayer 24 Oct’16, UN Day, Invocation_T. Peters, Seoul at the beginning of the Korea Council on Foreign Relations’ official commemoration of ‘UN Day’ in Seoul, Korea.)


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‘Asymmetric humanitarian initiatives’ introduced by HHK director in NKDB briefing to diplomats, academics & NGO’s

Representatives of foreign missions, international NGO’s, academia and the press attended a briefing given by HHK_Catacombs’ founder Tim Peters and hosted by the Database for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB). Peters provided a comprehensive overview his NGO’s ‘asymmetric humanitarian initiatives’ to members of the EU delegation, the French Embassy, the Australian Embassy, the German Embassy, the Swedish Embassy, the Norwegian Embassy, the Finnish Embassy, the Sri Lankan Embassy, as well as participants from the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the Korea Hana Foundation, North Korea Human Rights Foundation, the Wall Street Journal, and professors from Yonsei University and Sungshin Women’s University. The event was kindly hosted by the French Embassy.

Stressing the growing challenges to NGO’s within the tense security environment on the Korean Peninsula as well as on the Sino-DPRK border, Peters used four specific examples from his own NGO project strategies to stress the critical importance of adopting unconventional approaches to enable continued assistance to North Koreans in crisis under current conditions. Now in the 21st year of leading HHK’s philanthropic and humanitarian activities, Peters outlined ongoing innovation and unconventional approaches to his organization’s food, medicine and clothing project, evacuation of North Korean refugees along the so-called ‘underground railroad,’ protection and foster care for orphaned children in China who’ve lost their North Korean refugee mothers to forced repatriation by Chinese officials, as well as non-traditional advocacy and awareness-raising activities on a global scale. (Some additional details are available upon request to tapkorea@gmail.com)

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HHK to VOA:Specter of forced repatriation continues to haunt North Korean escapees in China

Most North Korean Defectors Avoid Seeking Asylum in China

FILE - Flags of China and North Korea hang outside the closed Ryugyong Korean Restaurant in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, China, April 12, 2016.

FILE – Flags of China and North Korea hang outside the closed Ryugyong Korean Restaurant in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, China, April 12, 2016.

Brian Padden

August 02, 2016 7:06 AM

SEOUL—The South Korean Foreign Ministry, during its weekly press briefing on Tuesday, did not address the reported defection of a North Korean national allegedly seeking asylum in Seoul’s diplomatic mission in Hong Kong.Beijing also has refrained from comment on reports that Jong Yol Ri, an 18-year-old North Korean student who was attending an international mathematics competition in Hong Kong, last week sought refuge in the South Korean consulate, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper.

Hong Kong police have since increased their presence around the Far East Finance Center where the consulate is located.

China’s hard line

South Korea is not expected to make a public plea to China to allow the North Korean student to leave for Seoul or a third country on humanitarian grounds.

“If you pressure Beijing too much they could do it just for the sake of really going the other way, instead of responding to public pressure,” said Arnold Fang, East Asia researcher for the human rights organization Amnesty International in Hong Kong.

Instead, the two sides will likely engage in quiet negotiations.

To discourage asylum seekers, Beijing is known to wait months and even years before expelling defectors to a third county.

“During a period of one to two years, which is not short, [the South Korean government] negotiates with the Chinese government and the defectors are expelled, by about that time people tend to forget,” said Kim Yong-hwa of the North Korean Refugees’ Human Rights Association in Korea.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, an almost constant influx of North Korean asylum seekers climbed the walls of foreign diplomatic missions in China.

On one day alone in 2004, 44 North Korean men, women and children entered the Canadian Embassy in Beijing seeking asylum.

Forcing asylum seekers to remain basically as captives inside foreign diplomatic missions in China, and increasing security on both sides of the Sino-North Korean border, has greatly reduced the number of North Korean asylum seekers in China in recent years.

Harsh penalties for the families that defectors leave behind has also greatly decreased overall defections from the North, especially among the elites.

Underground railroad

North Koreans still cross into China to escape extremely impoverished conditions at home.

But most organizations that aid North Korean defectors today avoid seeking asylum in China or expecting any assistance from the South Korean government.

“We do not seek governmental help and they have not offered it. And we’re fine with that arrangement,” said Tim Peters, the director of Helping Hands Korea, a Christian aid organization for North Korean defectors in Seoul.

An estimated 100,000 undocumented North Koreans currently live in China, most near the border area.

FILE - A Chinese-built fence near a concrete marker depicting the North Korean and Chinese national flags with the words "China North Korea Border" at a crossing in the Chinese border town of Tumen in eastern China's Jilin province.

FILE – A Chinese-built fence near a concrete marker depicting the North Korean and Chinese national flags with the words “China North Korea Border” at a crossing in the Chinese border town of Tumen in eastern China’s Jilin province.

Christian organizations, human rights groups, as well as private guides who charge thousands of dollars, help defectors in China arrange for transportation and documents to secure passage to a bordering country.

Some, like Vietnam and Mongolia, have imposed stricter border security. Many now head to Laos or even try to continue on to Thailand, where the government has allowed North Koreans safe transit to South Korea.

The journey for defectors is fraught with danger and physically demanding, usually requiring several long bus trips.

“The fear of forced repatriation is a nightmare that they face 24 [hours], seven [days a week], 365 days a year,” said Peters.

Beijing considers defectors economic migrants rather than refugees, and will forcefully repatriate undocumented North Koreans, even though the United Nations Committee Against Torture warns that returning defectors face systematic torture and harassment in the North.

Youmi Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.


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HHK director addresses ongoing challenges along the ‘underground RR’ in 7/26 Hankuk Univ. of Foreign Studies-HRNK(D.C.) conference in Seoul

PROGRAM

Date: Wednesday, July 26, 2016

Venue: Main Conference Hall, Cyber Building, HUFS

  1. Opening Ceremony……………………………………………………………. Greg Scarlatoiu

Moderator

Executive Director, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

  1. Keynote Speaker…………………………………………………………. H.E. Choi Seokyoung

Visiting Professor/Ambassador Retired,

Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University

  1. Speakers

Signe Poulsen

    Representative, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Seoul)

    Hyeonseo Lee

    President and CEO, North Star NK

    Author, The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

    Tim Peters

    Founder-Managing Director, Helping Hands Korea

    Kim Kwang-jin

    Senior Researcher, ROK Institute for National Security Strategy

    Non-resident Fellow, HRNK

    1. Q & A Session………………………………………………………………………… Moderator
    2. Closing Ceremony…………………………………………….……………………… Moderator
    3. Commemorative Photograph

    The North Korean Human Rights Situation

    For almost 70 years, North Korea’s human rights record has been abysmal. Over a quarter century after the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, North Korea’s Kim regime has maintained its absolute grip on power, while accomplishing two hereditary transmissions of power: from Kim Il-sung to Kim Jong-il in July 1994, and from Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un in December 2011. The primary strategic objective of the Kim regime continues to be its own self-preservation, regardless of the toll imposed on the North Korean people’s fundamental human rights.

    Although North Korea is bound, as a UN member state, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and although it is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Genocide Convention, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, each and every conceivable human right continues to be violated in that country. In the year 2016, 120,000 men, women, and children, continue to be brutally persecuted behind the barbed wire fences of North Korea’s political prison camps, subjected to unrelenting induced malnutrition, forced labor, torture, sexual violence as well as public and secret executions. Those suspected of being disloyal to the regime, of being, from the regime’s viewpoint, wrong-thinkers, wrong-doers, of possessing wrong knowledge, of having engaged in wrong associations, or of coming from the wrong family background, are subjected to extrajudicial arrest and detention, often together with members of three generations of their families. They are held in North Korea’s hidden gulag indefinitely, in most cases without charge or hope for recourse.

    In the year 2016, pursuant to Songbun— a system of social discrimination established in the 1950s—the people of North Korea continue to be divided into three social categories and 51 subcategories, based on their degree of loyalty to the regime, and on the perceived allegiance of their parents and grandparents. Their access to food, jobs, and any type of opportunity continues to depend on their social classification. In the mid to late 1990s, as up to 3 million North Koreans starved to death, the Kim regime continued to invest in the development of its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, and purchased dozens of jet fighters.

    Human Rights Trends under the Kim Jong-un Regime

    The human rights situation has deteriorated under the Kim Jong-un regime. Three trends stand out in particular: an aggressive crackdown on attempted defections—the number of North Korean escapees arriving in South Korea declined by almost 50% from 2011 to 2012/2016; an aggressive purge—culminating in the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the leader’s uncle, and his associates in December 2013, with around 80 senior officials reportedly executed since 2012; and the “restructuring” of North Korea’s political prison camp system—facilities near the border with China have been closed, while other camps have been expanded.

    The UN Commission of Inquiry (COI)

    On March 21, 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council—composed of 47 UN member states—adopted by consensus a resolution to establish a “Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (COI).” While NGOs such as HRNK, tasked to monitor, research and report on the North Korean human rights situation, had been aware of the extent of the North Korean human rights violations for many years, this was the first time that an investigative body was established by the United Nations to determine the extent and gravity of North Korea’s human rights abuses.

    After investigating “the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in North Korea, the COI released its report on February 17, 2014, one month ahead of the formal submission to the UN Human Rights Council on March 17. The report finds that “in many instances, the violations found entailed crimes against humanity based on State policies.”

    In 2014 and 2015, both the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly passed resolutions including strong language on crimes against humanity committed pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state in North Korea, and the recommendation that the UN Security Council submit the North Korean case to the International Criminal Court. In December 2014, the UN Security Council voted to include North Korean human rights in its agenda, next to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The mandate of the Panel of Experts to assist the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee in conjunction with Resolution 2270 was also renewed in March 2015 and March 2016. Following up on the recommendations of the UN COI, in June 2015, a UN field office was established in Seoul to continue the commission’s investigative work. On November 18, 2015, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly approved draft resolution A/C.3/70/L.35 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with 112 votes for, 19 against, and 50 abstentions. The country-specific resolution was adopted on December 17, 2015 with 119 votes for, 19 against, and 48 abstentions.

    The COI’s Findings

    The COI has determined that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been, and are being, committed by North Korea. These include:

    • arbitrary detention, torture, executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps;
    • violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion;
    • discrimination on the basis of State-assigned social class, gender, and disability
    • violations of the freedom of movement and residence, including the right to leave one’s own country;
    • violations of the right to food and related aspects of the right to life ; and
    • enforced disappearance of persons from other countries, including through international abductions.

    In light of the gravity, scale and level of organization of these violations, the COI has concluded that crimes against humanity have been committed by officials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State. These crimes against humanity involve extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation. The COI has also established that crimes against humanity continue to be committed in North Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.

    One of the most important determinations made by the COI is that North Korea can be characterized as a totalitarian state that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within. In other words, the COI has found that crimes against humanity and other abysmal human rights violations are at the very core of the North Korean regime’s modus operandi. The COI has characterized North Korea as “a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” due to the “gravity, scale, and nature of the violations committed” by the North Korean regime.

    The Victims of North Korea’s Crimes against Humanity

    The COI determined that crimes against humanity target anyone viewed as a threat to the political system and leadership of North Korea, in particular:

    • the estimated 80,000-120,000 inmates of the DPRK’s political prison camps;
    • inmates of other detention facilities, including political prisoners;
    • persons who try to escape North Korea, in particular those forcibly repatriated by China to conditions of danger;
    • religious believers, Christians in particular;
    • people considered to introduce “subversive” influences into North Korea, such as those who smuggle South Korean video material into North Korea, or those who are suspected of having had contacts with South Koreans;
    • the COI determined that crimes against humanity have been committed by deliberately starving selected segments of the North Korean population, in particular during the great famine of the 1990s. The purpose of de facto condemning targeted groups to death by starvation was the preservation of North Korea’s leadership and political system;
    • the COI found that crimes against humanity have been, and are being committed against the citizens of the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other countries abducted by agents of the North Korean regime.

    The Way Forward

    Although North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs continue to take center stage, it is essential to continue to investigate and interview witnesses, and to continue to bring attention to the systematic, widespread crimes against humanity and egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean regime, to protect the victims, to bring justice to their tormentors, and, without further delay, to seek ways to improve the human rights situation in that country.

    Keynote Speaker

    Ambassador Choi Seokyoung

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    Visiting Professor/Ambassador retired

    Graduate School of International Studies

    Seoul National University

    Ambassador Choi Seokyoung was born in Kangleung, Korea in 1955. He was educated at Seoul National University (BA), the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management (MBA).

    After joining the Korean Foreign Ministry in 1979, he served various postings in Korean Embassies in Kenya, Germany, and in Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York and Geneva. He has been involved in multilateral diplomacy in the fields of trade, the environment and economic affairs, and has acted as a representative of the Korean Government for a number of UN, WTO, APEC and other multilateral organizations organized and sponsored conferences.

    Ambassador Choi was ROK Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva during a critical time in addressing the North Korean human rights situation (2012–2015). He chaired various UN related meetings including the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, and also served as adviser to the President of the UN General Assembly in 2001 in economic and social fields. During 2002-2003, he served as Korea’s Deputy Senior Official to APEC and as the Korean Representative to the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment while holding the position of the Convenor of the Group on Services of APEC. He was Deputy Executive Director of APEC Secretariat in 2004 and was the 13th APEC Secretariat Executive Director. He has served as the Permanent Representative of Korea to the WTO and has been the Chairman of the WTO Council for Trade in Services.

    He is the author of numerous articles particularly in the fields of trade and environment as well as the climate change negotiations.

    Moderator

    Greg Scarlatoiu

    pastedGraphic_1.png

    Executive Director
    Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

    Faculty Member
    HUFS ISS

    Greg Scarlatoiu is Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) in Washington, D.C. At HRNK, he plans, coordinates, manages and conducts research and outreach programs aiming to focus world attention on human rights abuses in North Korea, and to seek creative solutions for improving the human rights situation in that country. A regular guest on CNN and Al Jazeera TV as well as the John Batchelor radio show, he has authored a weekly radio column broadcast by Radio Free Asia to North Korea for twelve years. A returning visiting professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Seoul, Scarlatoiu co-chairs the Korea and Japan class at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on several occasions, and given lectures addressing the Korean peninsula at numerous U.S. academic institutions as well as other venues in Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, Scarlatoiu was born and raised in communist Romania under the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. He  lived in Seoul for 10 years and is fluent in Korean, French and Romanian. He holds MAs in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and Seoul National University, and a BA in international relations from Seoul National University. In 1999, Scarlatoiu was conferred the title of Citizen of Honor, City of Seoul. Scarlatoiu is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Council on Korean Studies (ICKS).

    Prior to joining HRNK, Scarlatoiu was the Director of Public Affairs and Business Issues of the Korea Economic Institute (KEI) in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, he planned, designed and implemented outreach programs to educate Americans on developments on the Korean peninsula and U.S.-Korea relations both inside and outside of Washington, DC. Before his work with KEI, he was Management Associate for the International Science and Technology Institute, Inc. (ISTI) in Arlington, Virginia. He was tasked with business development, project management, technical assistance implementation, and liaising with multilateral and bilateral development agencies, partners, and clients under USAID, World Bank and Asian Development Bank projects worldwide.

    Speakers

    Signe Poulsen

    pastedGraphic_2.png

    Representative

    Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Seoul)

    Signe Poulsen has served as the Representative of OHCHR(Seoul) since August 2015. Prior to this, she served in various capacities for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights including postings in Liberia, Timor-Leste, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea. Before joining the United Nations Ms. Poulsen worked in international human rights organizations including Amnesty International. She is a Danish national and holds a MSc. From the London School of Economics and Political Science.

    Lee Hyeonseo

    President and CEO

    North Star NK

    Author

    The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

    Hyeonseo Lee is a North Korean defector living in Seoul, South Korea. Her recently published memoir, The Girl with Seven Names – A North Korean Defector’s Story, has been published in 18 languages in 25 countries. Over 8 million people have viewed her TED Talk (including the cross-posting on Youtube) about her life in North Korea, her escape to China and struggle to bring her family to freedom. Oprah called it, “The most riveting Ted Talk ever.” Hyeonseo has given testimony about North Korean human rights in front of a special panel of the UN Security Council in 2014 and at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2016. She’s also discussed North Korean human rights issues with various officials, including UN Ambassador Samantha Powers.

    Hyeonseo has written articles for The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. She has also been interviewed by TIME, BBC, CNN, Reuters, AP, AFP, NYT, FOX, CBS, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Glamour magazine and countless other television, newspaper and radio outlets throughout the world. She is currently writing her second book with other female North Koreans living in South Korea, and is starting an NGO, “North Star NK,” to help North Korean refugees improve their lives and interact with the international community.

    Tim A. Peters

    pastedGraphic_3.png

    Founder-Managing Director

    Helping Hands Korea (HHK)/Catacombs

    Tim Peters is a Christian activist whose service has spanned four decades, six countries, as well as the Caribbean and Polynesian Islands. He currently resides with his wife, Sun-mi, in Seoul, South Korea where he has lived and labored on three separate occasions for a total of nearly 25 years since 1975. Tim and Sun-mi have five grown children and four grandchildren.

    Under his leadership, Helping Hands Korea in 1996 experienced a major shift of focus from projects in South Korea to the needs of North Koreans in crisis. In response to news of famine in North Korea, Helping Hands Korea launched a small program to provide food aid to the most vulnerable sectors of North Korean society. Through these efforts, unorthodox avenues of aid delivery were developed to maximize transparency in monitoring, a chronic challenge to humanitarian groups in North Korea. From 1998, Helping Hands Korea undertook the additional task of assisting North Koreans in China who had fled famine and oppression in their own country only to find their lives also at risk in China. Aid to North Korean refugees in China includes secret shelters, food, clothing, emergency medical treatment, as well as spiritual guidance and comfort. Logistical support is given to refugees for escape to third countries via the so-called ‘underground railroad’ in certain crisis conditions. Since 2005, aid by HHK in China to orphaned children of forcibly repatriated North Korean refugee women has grown significantly.

    Mr. Peters has also worked in a variety of secular jobs to support his family and Christian activities in the tradition of a ‘tentmaker missionary.’ In addition to a number of teaching positions, he has also worked as an editor and speechwriter for the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, the Korean National Red Cross and the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) in Seoul. In early 2004, he was approached by the World Economic Forum to prepare a paper that would outline the current predicament of North Korean refugees in China, to project worst-case and best-case scenarios of this crisis as well as to recommend practical measures to help the 300,000 North Korean refugees in China. Mr. Peters’ has given U.S. Congressional testimony on three occasions between 2002 and 2005.His written submission for the April 28, 2004 hearing of the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee, Subcommittee of Asia and the Pacific, entitled “Korean Pathetique: A Symphony of Refugee Tears Unheededcontains the essence of his analysis and policy recommendations as submitted to the World Economic Forum. This analysis of the multi-faceted North Korean refugee problem with proposed solutions has been referenced in the Encyclopedia of Human Rights, 2009, (v.3) by Oxford University Press.

    Mr. Peters’ activism was profiled in a TIME magazine cover story (Asia) on May 1st of 2006. His missionary work has also been highlighted in Newsweek (Asia), The Sunday Times (London), New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Times, BBC, NPR, ABC’s Nightline, Korea Times, Christianity Today, the award-winning documentary, Seoul Train, and the major 2012 book release by author Melanie Kirkpatrick, Escape from North Korea, The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad. The Wall Street Journal recommended Peters for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Peters won the 2008 St. Stephen’s Prize in Oslo, presented by Norway’s former Prime Minister, Kjell Bondevik, on behalf of Stephanus Alliance International.

    Kim Kwang-jin

    pastedGraphic_4.png

    Senior Researcher

    ROK Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS)/HRNK

    As non-resident fellow at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Mr. Kim Kwang-jin is an invaluable experienced resource shedding light into the darkest corners of the North Korean regime‘s secret and illegal international financial operations. His revelations have saved re-insurance companies tens of millions of dollars and brought an end to an important method the corrupt regime purloined from foreign sources the funds it needed to maintain its internal oppression.

    In September 2003, Kim Kwang-jin and his family rushed to an airport in Southeast Asia to fly to freedom in Seoul, South Korea. Months earlier, Mr. Kim lived a privileged life working for the government’s overseas banking operations in Singapore. Then, Mr. Kim fell out of favor after he was suspected of leaking information about the regime to foreign nationals. Before being summoned back to North Korea to face severe punishment, Kim made the decision to defect with his family. During his banking career, Mr. Kim helped earn millions of dollars for what he calls North Korea’s “Royal Court Economy,” i.e., the enterprises and often illegal schemes that financially supported the country’s totalitarian regime.

    Since arriving in South Korea, Mr. Kim has served as an analyst at the ROK Institute for National Security Strategy.  A household name on TV and radio programs addressing North Korea, he has worked as a consultant for the ROK Unification Ministry as well as media organizations including KBS, MBC, and RFA. He is a standing member of the ROK National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC). His educational background includes completion of Ph.D. course work and an MBA in Finance and Insurance from Kookmin University (Seoul, 2014, 2012), a Master’s in Economics/IT of North Korea at the University of North Korean Studies (Seoul, 2008), and a BA in British Literature from Kim Il Sung University (Pyongyang, 1989). Working for the North Korean regime, Mr. Kim served as Singapore Representative of North East Asia Bank (2002-2003); an agent of the Korean Foreign Insurance Company and North East Asia Bank, Pyongyang, (1998-2002), and Professor of the Pyongyang Computer College (1991-1997).  He has published numerous papers and articles on the North Korean economy and the current power transition in North Korea, including: “Gulag, Inc.—The Use of Forced Labor in North Korea’s Export Industries” (HRNK, 2016); “After Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?” (HRNK, 2009, 2011); “Financial Institutions in North Korea and Their Role”(2016); “North Korea’s Provocations after Presidential Elections in South Korea”(2012); “On KWP’s Role and Its Prospect in Power Transition to Kim Jong-eun” (2011); “The Defector’s Tale, Inside North Korea’s Secret Economy”, World Affairs Journal (2011); “Kim Jong Il’s Royal Court Economy and Destruction of the People’s Economy” (2008); “The Change of North Korea’s Foreign Exchange Control System and its Increasing Dependence on Foreign Currency” (2008); “The Dollarization of North Korea Economy and Kim Jong Il’s Royal Court Economy” (2007); “The Korea Foreign Trade Bank and North Korea’s Foreign Exchange Control System” (2007); and “The US Financial Sanctions Regime on North Korea and Its Prospect” (2006)

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    PROGRAM

    Date: Wednesday, July 26, 2016

    Venue: Main Conference Hall, Cyber Building, HUFS

    1. Opening Ceremony……………………………………………………………. Greg Scarlatoiu

    Moderator

    Executive Director, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

    1. Keynote Speaker…………………………………………………………. H.E. Choi Seokyoung

    Visiting Professor/Ambassador Retired,

    Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University

    1. Speakers………………………………………………………………………….. Signe Poulsen

    Representative, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Seoul)

    Hyeonseo Lee

    President and CEO, North Star NK

    Author, The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

    Tim Peters

    Founder-Managing Director, Helping Hands Korea

    Kim Kwang-jin

    Senior Researcher, ROK Institute for National Security Strategy

    Non-resident Fellow, HRNK

    1. Q & A Session………………………………………………………………………… Moderator
    2. Closing Ceremony…………………………………………….……………………… Moderator
    3. Commemorative Photograph

    The North Korean Human Rights Situation

    For almost 70 years, North Korea’s human rights record has been abysmal. Over a quarter century after the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, North Korea’s Kim regime has maintained its absolute grip on power, while accomplishing two hereditary transmissions of power: from Kim Il-sung to Kim Jong-il in July 1994, and from Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un in December 2011. The primary strategic objective of the Kim regime continues to be its own self-preservation, regardless of the toll imposed on the North Korean people’s fundamental human rights.

    Although North Korea is bound, as a UN member state, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and although it is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Genocide Convention, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, each and every conceivable human right continues to be violated in that country. In the year 2016, 120,000 men, women, and children, continue to be brutally persecuted behind the barbed wire fences of North Korea’s political prison camps, subjected to unrelenting induced malnutrition, forced labor, torture, sexual violence as well as public and secret executions. Those suspected of being disloyal to the regime, of being, from the regime’s viewpoint, wrong-thinkers, wrong-doers, of possessing wrong knowledge, of having engaged in wrong associations, or of coming from the wrong family background, are subjected to extrajudicial arrest and detention, often together with members of three generations of their families. They are held in North Korea’s hidden gulag indefinitely, in most cases without charge or hope for recourse.

    In the year 2016, pursuant to Songbun— a system of social discrimination established in the 1950s—the people of North Korea continue to be divided into three social categories and 51 subcategories, based on their degree of loyalty to the regime, and on the perceived allegiance of their parents and grandparents. Their access to food, jobs, and any type of opportunity continues to depend on their social classification. In the mid to late 1990s, as up to 3 million North Koreans starved to death, the Kim regime continued to invest in the development of its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, and purchased dozens of jet fighters.

    Human Rights Trends under the Kim Jong-un Regime

    The human rights situation has deteriorated under the Kim Jong-un regime. Three trends stand out in particular: an aggressive crackdown on attempted defections—the number of North Korean escapees arriving in South Korea declined by almost 50% from 2011 to 2012/2016; an aggressive purge—culminating in the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the leader’s uncle, and his associates in December 2013, with around 80 senior officials reportedly executed since 2012; and the “restructuring” of North Korea’s political prison camp system—facilities near the border with China have been closed, while other camps have been expanded.

    The UN Commission of Inquiry (COI)

    On March 21, 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council—composed of 47 UN member states—adopted by consensus a resolution to establish a “Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (COI).” While NGOs such as HRNK, tasked to monitor, research and report on the North Korean human rights situation, had been aware of the extent of the North Korean human rights violations for many years, this was the first time that an investigative body was established by the United Nations to determine the extent and gravity of North Korea’s human rights abuses.

    After investigating “the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in North Korea, the COI released its report on February 17, 2014, one month ahead of the formal submission to the UN Human Rights Council on March 17. The report finds that “in many instances, the violations found entailed crimes against humanity based on State policies.”

    In 2014 and 2015, both the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly passed resolutions including strong language on crimes against humanity committed pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state in North Korea, and the recommendation that the UN Security Council submit the North Korean case to the International Criminal Court. In December 2014, the UN Security Council voted to include North Korean human rights in its agenda, next to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The mandate of the Panel of Experts to assist the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee in conjunction with Resolution 2270 was also renewed in March 2015 and March 2016. Following up on the recommendations of the UN COI, in June 2015, a UN field office was established in Seoul to continue the commission’s investigative work. On November 18, 2015, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly approved draft resolution A/C.3/70/L.35 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with 112 votes for, 19 against, and 50 abstentions. The country-specific resolution was adopted on December 17, 2015 with 119 votes for, 19 against, and 48 abstentions.

    The COI’s Findings

    The COI has determined that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been, and are being, committed by North Korea. These include:

    • arbitrary detention, torture, executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps;
    • violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion;
    • discrimination on the basis of State-assigned social class, gender, and disability
    • violations of the freedom of movement and residence, including the right to leave one’s own country;
    • violations of the right to food and related aspects of the right to life ; and
    • enforced disappearance of persons from other countries, including through international abductions.

    In light of the gravity, scale and level of organization of these violations, the COI has concluded that crimes against humanity have been committed by officials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State. These crimes against humanity involve extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation. The COI has also established that crimes against humanity continue to be committed in North Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.

    One of the most important determinations made by the COI is that North Korea can be characterized as a totalitarian state that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within. In other words, the COI has found that crimes against humanity and other abysmal human rights violations are at the very core of the North Korean regime’s modus operandi. The COI has characterized North Korea as “a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” due to the “gravity, scale, and nature of the violations committed” by the North Korean regime.

    The Victims of North Korea’s Crimes against Humanity

    The COI determined that crimes against humanity target anyone viewed as a threat to the political system and leadership of North Korea, in particular:

    • the estimated 80,000-120,000 inmates of the DPRK’s political prison camps;
    • inmates of other detention facilities, including political prisoners;
    • persons who try to escape North Korea, in particular those forcibly repatriated by China to conditions of danger;
    • religious believers, Christians in particular;
    • people considered to introduce “subversive” influences into North Korea, such as those who smuggle South Korean video material into North Korea, or those who are suspected of having had contacts with South Koreans;
    • the COI determined that crimes against humanity have been committed by deliberately starving selected segments of the North Korean population, in particular during the great famine of the 1990s. The purpose of de facto condemning targeted groups to death by starvation was the preservation of North Korea’s leadership and political system;
    • the COI found that crimes against humanity have been, and are being committed against the citizens of the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other countries abducted by agents of the North Korean regime.

    The Way Forward

    Although North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs continue to take center stage, it is essential to continue to investigate and interview witnesses, and to continue to bring attention to the systematic, widespread crimes against humanity and egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean regime, to protect the victims, to bring justice to their tormentors, and, without further delay, to seek ways to improve the human rights situation in that country.

    Keynote Speaker

    Ambassador Choi Seokyoung

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    Visiting Professor/Ambassador retired

    Graduate School of International Studies

    Seoul National University

    Ambassador Choi Seokyoung was born in Kangleung, Korea in 1955. He was educated at Seoul National University (BA), the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management (MBA).

    After joining the Korean Foreign Ministry in 1979, he served various postings in Korean Embassies in Kenya, Germany, and in Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York and Geneva. He has been involved in multilateral diplomacy in the fields of trade, the environment and economic affairs, and has acted as a representative of the Korean Government for a number of UN, WTO, APEC and other multilateral organizations organized and sponsored conferences.

    Ambassador Choi was ROK Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva during a critical time in addressing the North Korean human rights situation (2012–2015). He chaired various UN related meetings including the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, and also served as adviser to the President of the UN General Assembly in 2001 in economic and social fields. During 2002-2003, he served as Korea’s Deputy Senior Official to APEC and as the Korean Representative to the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment while holding the position of the Convenor of the Group on Services of APEC. He was Deputy Executive Director of APEC Secretariat in 2004 and was the 13th APEC Secretariat Executive Director. He has served as the Permanent Representative of Korea to the WTO and has been the Chairman of the WTO Council for Trade in Services.

    He is the author of numerous articles particularly in the fields of trade and environment as well as the climate change negotiations.

    Moderator

    Greg Scarlatoiu

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    Executive Director
    Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

    Faculty Member
    HUFS ISS

    Greg Scarlatoiu is Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) in Washington, D.C. At HRNK, he plans, coordinates, manages and conducts research and outreach programs aiming to focus world attention on human rights abuses in North Korea, and to seek creative solutions for improving the human rights situation in that country. A regular guest on CNN and Al Jazeera TV as well as the John Batchelor radio show, he has authored a weekly radio column broadcast by Radio Free Asia to North Korea for twelve years. A returning visiting professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Seoul, Scarlatoiu co-chairs the Korea and Japan class at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on several occasions, and given lectures addressing the Korean peninsula at numerous U.S. academic institutions as well as other venues in Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, Scarlatoiu was born and raised in communist Romania under the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. He  lived in Seoul for 10 years and is fluent in Korean, French and Romanian. He holds MAs in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and Seoul National University, and a BA in international relations from Seoul National University. In 1999, Scarlatoiu was conferred the title of Citizen of Honor, City of Seoul. Scarlatoiu is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Council on Korean Studies (ICKS).

    Prior to joining HRNK, Scarlatoiu was the Director of Public Affairs and Business Issues of the Korea Economic Institute (KEI) in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, he planned, designed and implemented outreach programs to educate Americans on developments on the Korean peninsula and U.S.-Korea relations both inside and outside of Washington, DC. Before his work with KEI, he was Management Associate for the International Science and Technology Institute, Inc. (ISTI) in Arlington, Virginia. He was tasked with business development, project management, technical assistance implementation, and liaising with multilateral and bilateral development agencies, partners, and clients under USAID, World Bank and Asian Development Bank projects worldwide.

    Speakers

    Signe Poulsen

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    Representative

    Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Seoul)

    Signe Poulsen has served as the Representative of OHCHR(Seoul) since August 2015. Prior to this, she served in various capacities for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights including postings in Liberia, Timor-Leste, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea. Before joining the United Nations Ms. Poulsen worked in international human rights organizations including Amnesty International. She is a Danish national and holds a MSc. From the London School of Economics and Political Science.

    Lee Hyeonseo

    President and CEO

    North Star NK

    Author

    The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

    Hyeonseo Lee is a North Korean defector living in Seoul, South Korea. Her recently published memoir, The Girl with Seven Names – A North Korean Defector’s Story, has been published in 18 languages in 25 countries. Over 8 million people have viewed her TED Talk (including the cross-posting on Youtube) about her life in North Korea, her escape to China and struggle to bring her family to freedom. Oprah called it, “The most riveting Ted Talk ever.” Hyeonseo has given testimony about North Korean human rights in front of a special panel of the UN Security Council in 2014 and at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2016. She’s also discussed North Korean human rights issues with various officials, including UN Ambassador Samantha Powers.

    Hyeonseo has written articles for The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. She has also been interviewed by TIME, BBC, CNN, Reuters, AP, AFP, NYT, FOX, CBS, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Glamour magazine and countless other television, newspaper and radio outlets throughout the world. She is currently writing her second book with other female North Koreans living in South Korea, and is starting an NGO, “North Star NK,” to help North Korean refugees improve their lives and interact with the international community.

    Tim A. Peters

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    Founder-Managing Director

    Helping Hands Korea (HHK)/Catacombs

    Tim Peters is a Christian activist whose service has spanned four decades, six countries, as well as the Caribbean and Polynesian Islands. He currently resides with his wife, Sun-mi, in Seoul, South Korea where he has lived and labored on three separate occasions for a total of nearly 25 years since 1975. Tim and Sun-mi have five grown children and four grandchildren.

    Under his leadership, Helping Hands Korea in 1996 experienced a major shift of focus from projects in South Korea to the needs of North Koreans in crisis. In response to news of famine in North Korea, Helping Hands Korea launched a small program to provide food aid to the most vulnerable sectors of North Korean society. Through these efforts, unorthodox avenues of aid delivery were developed to maximize transparency in monitoring, a chronic challenge to humanitarian groups in North Korea. From 1998, Helping Hands Korea undertook the additional task of assisting North Koreans in China who had fled famine and oppression in their own country only to find their lives also at risk in China. Aid to North Korean refugees in China includes secret shelters, food, clothing, emergency medical treatment, as well as spiritual guidance and comfort. Logistical support is given to refugees for escape to third countries via the so-called ‘underground railroad’ in certain crisis conditions. Since 2005, aid by HHK in China to orphaned children of forcibly repatriated North Korean refugee women has grown significantly.

    Mr. Peters has also worked in a variety of secular jobs to support his family and Christian activities in the tradition of a ‘tentmaker missionary.’ In addition to a number of teaching positions, he has also worked as an editor and speechwriter for the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, the Korean National Red Cross and the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) in Seoul. In early 2004, he was approached by the World Economic Forum to prepare a paper that would outline the current predicament of North Korean refugees in China, to project worst-case and best-case scenarios of this crisis as well as to recommend practical measures to help the 300,000 North Korean refugees in China. Mr. Peters’ has given U.S. Congressional testimony on three occasions between 2002 and 2005.His written submission for the April 28, 2004 hearing of the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee, Subcommittee of Asia and the Pacific, entitled “Korean Pathetique: A Symphony of Refugee Tears Unheededcontains the essence of his analysis and policy recommendations as submitted to the World Economic Forum. This analysis of the multi-faceted North Korean refugee problem with proposed solutions has been referenced in the Encyclopedia of Human Rights, 2009, (v.3) by Oxford University Press.

    Mr. Peters’ activism was profiled in a TIME magazine cover story (Asia) on May 1st of 2006. His missionary work has also been highlighted in Newsweek (Asia), The Sunday Times (London), New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Times, BBC, NPR, ABC’s Nightline, Korea Times, Christianity Today, the award-winning documentary, Seoul Train, and the major 2012 book release by author Melanie Kirkpatrick, Escape from North Korea, The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad. The Wall Street Journal recommended Peters for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Peters won the 2008 St. Stephen’s Prize in Oslo, presented by Norway’s former Prime Minister, Kjell Bondevik, on behalf of Stephanus Alliance International.

    Kim Kwang-jin

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    Senior Researcher

    ROK Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS)/HRNK

    As non-resident fellow at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Mr. Kim Kwang-jin is an invaluable experienced resource shedding light into the darkest corners of the North Korean regime‘s secret and illegal international financial operations. His revelations have saved re-insurance companies tens of millions of dollars and brought an end to an important method the corrupt regime purloined from foreign sources the funds it needed to maintain its internal oppression.

    In September 2003, Kim Kwang-jin and his family rushed to an airport in Southeast Asia to fly to freedom in Seoul, South Korea. Months earlier, Mr. Kim lived a privileged life working for the government’s overseas banking operations in Singapore. Then, Mr. Kim fell out of favor after he was suspected of leaking information about the regime to foreign nationals. Before being summoned back to North Korea to face severe punishment, Kim made the decision to defect with his family. During his banking career, Mr. Kim helped earn millions of dollars for what he calls North Korea’s “Royal Court Economy,” i.e., the enterprises and often illegal schemes that financially supported the country’s totalitarian regime.

    Since arriving in South Korea, Mr. Kim has served as an analyst at the ROK Institute for National Security Strategy.  A household name on TV and radio programs addressing North Korea, he has worked as a consultant for the ROK Unification Ministry as well as media organizations including KBS, MBC, and RFA. He is a standing member of the ROK National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC). His educational background includes completion of Ph.D. course work and an MBA in Finance and Insurance from Kookmin University (Seoul, 2014, 2012), a Master’s in Economics/IT of North Korea at the University of North Korean Studies (Seoul, 2008), and a BA in British Literature from Kim Il Sung University (Pyongyang, 1989). Working for the North Korean regime, Mr. Kim served as Singapore Representative of North East Asia Bank (2002-2003); an agent of the Korean Foreign Insurance Company and North East Asia Bank, Pyongyang, (1998-2002), and Professor of the Pyongyang Computer College (1991-1997).  He has published numerous papers and articles on the North Korean economy and the current power transition in North Korea, including: “Gulag, Inc.—The Use of Forced Labor in North Korea’s Export Industries” (HRNK, 2016); “After Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?” (HRNK, 2009, 2011); “Financial Institutions in North Korea and Their Role”(2016); “North Korea’s Provocations after Presidential Elections in South Korea”(2012); “On KWP’s Role and Its Prospect in Power Transition to Kim Jong-eun” (2011); “The Defector’s Tale, Inside North Korea’s Secret Economy”, World Affairs Journal (2011); “Kim Jong Il’s Royal Court Economy and Destruction of the People’s Economy” (2008); “The Change of North Korea’s Foreign Exchange Control System and its Increasing Dependence on Foreign Currency” (2008); “The Dollarization of North Korea Economy and Kim Jong Il’s Royal Court Economy” (2007); “The Korea Foreign Trade Bank and North Korea’s Foreign Exchange Control System” (2007); and “The US Financial Sanctions Regime on North Korea and Its Prospect” (2006)

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    PROGRAM

    Date: Wednesday, July 26, 2016

    Venue: Main Conference Hall, Cyber Building, HUFS

    1. Opening Ceremony……………………………………………………………. Greg Scarlatoiu

    Moderator

    Executive Director, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

    1. Keynote Speaker…………………………………………………………. H.E. Choi Seokyoung

    Visiting Professor/Ambassador Retired,

    Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University

    1. Speakers………………………………………………………………………….. Signe Poulsen

    Representative, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Seoul)

    Hyeonseo Lee

    President and CEO, North Star NK

    Author, The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

    Tim Peters

    Founder-Managing Director, Helping Hands Korea

    Kim Kwang-jin

    Senior Researcher, ROK Institute for National Security Strategy

    Non-resident Fellow, HRNK

    1. Q & A Session………………………………………………………………………… Moderator
    2. Closing Ceremony…………………………………………….……………………… Moderator
    3. Commemorative Photograph

    The North Korean Human Rights Situation

    For almost 70 years, North Korea’s human rights record has been abysmal. Over a quarter century after the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, North Korea’s Kim regime has maintained its absolute grip on power, while accomplishing two hereditary transmissions of power: from Kim Il-sung to Kim Jong-il in July 1994, and from Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un in December 2011. The primary strategic objective of the Kim regime continues to be its own self-preservation, regardless of the toll imposed on the North Korean people’s fundamental human rights.

    Although North Korea is bound, as a UN member state, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and although it is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Genocide Convention, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, each and every conceivable human right continues to be violated in that country. In the year 2016, 120,000 men, women, and children, continue to be brutally persecuted behind the barbed wire fences of North Korea’s political prison camps, subjected to unrelenting induced malnutrition, forced labor, torture, sexual violence as well as public and secret executions. Those suspected of being disloyal to the regime, of being, from the regime’s viewpoint, wrong-thinkers, wrong-doers, of possessing wrong knowledge, of having engaged in wrong associations, or of coming from the wrong family background, are subjected to extrajudicial arrest and detention, often together with members of three generations of their families. They are held in North Korea’s hidden gulag indefinitely, in most cases without charge or hope for recourse.

    In the year 2016, pursuant to Songbun— a system of social discrimination established in the 1950s—the people of North Korea continue to be divided into three social categories and 51 subcategories, based on their degree of loyalty to the regime, and on the perceived allegiance of their parents and grandparents. Their access to food, jobs, and any type of opportunity continues to depend on their social classification. In the mid to late 1990s, as up to 3 million North Koreans starved to death, the Kim regime continued to invest in the development of its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, and purchased dozens of jet fighters.

    Human Rights Trends under the Kim Jong-un Regime

    The human rights situation has deteriorated under the Kim Jong-un regime. Three trends stand out in particular: an aggressive crackdown on attempted defections—the number of North Korean escapees arriving in South Korea declined by almost 50% from 2011 to 2012/2016; an aggressive purge—culminating in the execution of Jang Sung-taek, the leader’s uncle, and his associates in December 2013, with around 80 senior officials reportedly executed since 2012; and the “restructuring” of North Korea’s political prison camp system—facilities near the border with China have been closed, while other camps have been expanded.

    The UN Commission of Inquiry (COI)

    On March 21, 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council—composed of 47 UN member states—adopted by consensus a resolution to establish a “Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (COI).” While NGOs such as HRNK, tasked to monitor, research and report on the North Korean human rights situation, had been aware of the extent of the North Korean human rights violations for many years, this was the first time that an investigative body was established by the United Nations to determine the extent and gravity of North Korea’s human rights abuses.

    After investigating “the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in North Korea, the COI released its report on February 17, 2014, one month ahead of the formal submission to the UN Human Rights Council on March 17. The report finds that “in many instances, the violations found entailed crimes against humanity based on State policies.”

    In 2014 and 2015, both the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly passed resolutions including strong language on crimes against humanity committed pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state in North Korea, and the recommendation that the UN Security Council submit the North Korean case to the International Criminal Court. In December 2014, the UN Security Council voted to include North Korean human rights in its agenda, next to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The mandate of the Panel of Experts to assist the 1718 DPRK Sanctions Committee in conjunction with Resolution 2270 was also renewed in March 2015 and March 2016. Following up on the recommendations of the UN COI, in June 2015, a UN field office was established in Seoul to continue the commission’s investigative work. On November 18, 2015, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly approved draft resolution A/C.3/70/L.35 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with 112 votes for, 19 against, and 50 abstentions. The country-specific resolution was adopted on December 17, 2015 with 119 votes for, 19 against, and 48 abstentions.

    The COI’s Findings

    The COI has determined that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been, and are being, committed by North Korea. These include:

    • arbitrary detention, torture, executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps;
    • violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion;
    • discrimination on the basis of State-assigned social class, gender, and disability
    • violations of the freedom of movement and residence, including the right to leave one’s own country;
    • violations of the right to food and related aspects of the right to life ; and
    • enforced disappearance of persons from other countries, including through international abductions.

    In light of the gravity, scale and level of organization of these violations, the COI has concluded that crimes against humanity have been committed by officials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State. These crimes against humanity involve extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation. The COI has also established that crimes against humanity continue to be committed in North Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.

    One of the most important determinations made by the COI is that North Korea can be characterized as a totalitarian state that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within. In other words, the COI has found that crimes against humanity and other abysmal human rights violations are at the very core of the North Korean regime’s modus operandi. The COI has characterized North Korea as “a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” due to the “gravity, scale, and nature of the violations committed” by the North Korean regime.

    The Victims of North Korea’s Crimes against Humanity

    The COI determined that crimes against humanity target anyone viewed as a threat to the political system and leadership of North Korea, in particular:

    • the estimated 80,000-120,000 inmates of the DPRK’s political prison camps;
    • inmates of other detention facilities, including political prisoners;
    • persons who try to escape North Korea, in particular those forcibly repatriated by China to conditions of danger;
    • religious believers, Christians in particular;
    • people considered to introduce “subversive” influences into North Korea, such as those who smuggle South Korean video material into North Korea, or those who are suspected of having had contacts with South Koreans;
    • the COI determined that crimes against humanity have been committed by deliberately starving selected segments of the North Korean population, in particular during the great famine of the 1990s. The purpose of de facto condemning targeted groups to death by starvation was the preservation of North Korea’s leadership and political system;
    • the COI found that crimes against humanity have been, and are being committed against the citizens of the Republic of Korea, Japan, and other countries abducted by agents of the North Korean regime.

    The Way Forward

    Although North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs continue to take center stage, it is essential to continue to investigate and interview witnesses, and to continue to bring attention to the systematic, widespread crimes against humanity and egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean regime, to protect the victims, to bring justice to their tormentors, and, without further delay, to seek ways to improve the human rights situation in that country.

    Keynote Speaker

    Ambassador Choi Seokyoung

    Visiting Professor/Ambassador retired

    Graduate School of International Studies

    Seoul National University

    Ambassador Choi Seokyoung was born in Kangleung, Korea in 1955. He was educated at Seoul National University (BA), the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management (MBA).

    After joining the Korean Foreign Ministry in 1979, he served various postings in Korean Embassies in Kenya, Germany, and in Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York and Geneva. He has been involved in multilateral diplomacy in the fields of trade, the environment and economic affairs, and has acted as a representative of the Korean Government for a number of UN, WTO, APEC and other multilateral organizations organized and sponsored conferences.

    Ambassador Choi was ROK Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva during a critical time in addressing the North Korean human rights situation (2012–2015). He chaired various UN related meetings including the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, and also served as adviser to the President of the UN General Assembly in 2001 in economic and social fields. During 2002-2003, he served as Korea’s Deputy Senior Official to APEC and as the Korean Representative to the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment while holding the position of the Convenor of the Group on Services of APEC. He was Deputy Executive Director of APEC Secretariat in 2004 and was the 13th APEC Secretariat Executive Director. He has served as the Permanent Representative of Korea to the WTO and has been the Chairman of the WTO Council for Trade in Services.

    He is the author of numerous articles particularly in the fields of trade and environment as well as the climate change negotiations.

    Moderator

    Greg Scarlatoiu

    Executive Director
    Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

    Faculty Member
    HUFS ISS

    Greg Scarlatoiu is Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) in Washington, D.C. At HRNK, he plans, coordinates, manages and conducts research and outreach programs aiming to focus world attention on human rights abuses in North Korea, and to seek creative solutions for improving the human rights situation in that country. A regular guest on CNN and Al Jazeera TV as well as the John Batchelor radio show, he has authored a weekly radio column broadcast by Radio Free Asia to North Korea for twelve years. A returning visiting professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Seoul, Scarlatoiu co-chairs the Korea and Japan class at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. He has testified before the U.S. Congress on several occasions, and given lectures addressing the Korean peninsula at numerous U.S. academic institutions as well as other venues in Asia, North and South America, and Europe. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, Scarlatoiu was born and raised in communist Romania under the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. He  lived in Seoul for 10 years and is fluent in Korean, French and Romanian. He holds MAs in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and Seoul National University, and a BA in international relations from Seoul National University. In 1999, Scarlatoiu was conferred the title of Citizen of Honor, City of Seoul. Scarlatoiu is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Council on Korean Studies (ICKS).

    Prior to joining HRNK, Scarlatoiu was the Director of Public Affairs and Business Issues of the Korea Economic Institute (KEI) in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, he planned, designed and implemented outreach programs to educate Americans on developments on the Korean peninsula and U.S.-Korea relations both inside and outside of Washington, DC. Before his work with KEI, he was Management Associate for the International Science and Technology Institute, Inc. (ISTI) in Arlington, Virginia. He was tasked with business development, project management, technical assistance implementation, and liaising with multilateral and bilateral development agencies, partners, and clients under USAID, World Bank and Asian Development Bank projects worldwide.

    Speakers

    Signe Poulsen

    Representative

    Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (Seoul)

    Signe Poulsen has served as the Representative of OHCHR(Seoul) since August 2015. Prior to this, she served in various capacities for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights including postings in Liberia, Timor-Leste, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea. Before joining the United Nations Ms. Poulsen worked in international human rights organizations including Amnesty International. She is a Danish national and holds a MSc. From the London School of Economics and Political Science.

    Lee Hyeonseo

    President and CEO

    North Star NK

    Author

    The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

    Hyeonseo Lee is a North Korean defector living in Seoul, South Korea. Her recently published memoir, The Girl with Seven Names – A North Korean Defector’s Story, has been published in 18 languages in 25 countries. Over 8 million people have viewed her TED Talk (including the cross-posting on Youtube) about her life in North Korea, her escape to China and struggle to bring her family to freedom. Oprah called it, “The most riveting Ted Talk ever.” Hyeonseo has given testimony about North Korean human rights in front of a special panel of the UN Security Council in 2014 and at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2016. She’s also discussed North Korean human rights issues with various officials, including UN Ambassador Samantha Powers.

    Hyeonseo has written articles for The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. She has also been interviewed by TIME, BBC, CNN, Reuters, AP, AFP, NYT, FOX, CBS, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Glamour magazine and countless other television, newspaper and radio outlets throughout the world. She is currently writing her second book with other female North Koreans living in South Korea, and is starting an NGO, “North Star NK,” to help North Korean refugees improve their lives and interact with the international community.

    Tim A. Peters

    Founder-Managing Director

    Helping Hands Korea (HHK)/Catacombs

    Tim Peters is a Christian activist whose service has spanned four decades, six countries, as well as the Caribbean and Polynesian Islands. He currently resides with his wife, Sun-mi, in Seoul, South Korea where he has lived and labored on three separate occasions for a total of nearly 25 years since 1975. Tim and Sun-mi have five grown children and four grandchildren.

    Under his leadership, Helping Hands Korea in 1996 experienced a major shift of focus from projects in South Korea to the needs of North Koreans in crisis. In response to news of famine in North Korea, Helping Hands Korea launched a small program to provide food aid to the most vulnerable sectors of North Korean society. Through these efforts, unorthodox avenues of aid delivery were developed to maximize transparency in monitoring, a chronic challenge to humanitarian groups in North Korea. From 1998, Helping Hands Korea undertook the additional task of assisting North Koreans in China who had fled famine and oppression in their own country only to find their lives also at risk in China. Aid to North Korean refugees in China includes secret shelters, food, clothing, emergency medical treatment, as well as spiritual guidance and comfort. Logistical support is given to refugees for escape to third countries via the so-called ‘underground railroad’ in certain crisis conditions. Since 2005, aid by HHK in China to orphaned children of forcibly repatriated North Korean refugee women has grown significantly.

    Mr. Peters has also worked in a variety of secular jobs to support his family and Christian activities in the tradition of a ‘tentmaker missionary.’ In addition to a number of teaching positions, he has also worked as an editor and speechwriter for the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, the Korean National Red Cross and the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) in Seoul. In early 2004, he was approached by the World Economic Forum to prepare a paper that would outline the current predicament of North Korean refugees in China, to project worst-case and best-case scenarios of this crisis as well as to recommend practical measures to help the 300,000 North Korean refugees in China. Mr. Peters’ has given U.S. Congressional testimony on three occasions between 2002 and 2005.His written submission for the April 28, 2004 hearing of the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee, Subcommittee of Asia and the Pacific, entitled “Korean Pathetique: A Symphony of Refugee Tears Unheededcontains the essence of his analysis and policy recommendations as submitted to the World Economic Forum. This analysis of the multi-faceted North Korean refugee problem with proposed solutions has been referenced in the Encyclopedia of Human Rights, 2009, (v.3) by Oxford University Press.

    Mr. Peters’ activism was profiled in a TIME magazine cover story (Asia) on May 1st of 2006. His missionary work has also been highlighted in Newsweek (Asia), The Sunday Times (London), New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Times, BBC, NPR, ABC’s Nightline, Korea Times, Christianity Today, the award-winning documentary, Seoul Train, and the major 2012 book release by author Melanie Kirkpatrick, Escape from North Korea, The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad. The Wall Street Journal recommended Peters for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Peters won the 2008 St. Stephen’s Prize in Oslo, presented by Norway’s former Prime Minister, Kjell Bondevik, on behalf of Stephanus Alliance International.

    Kim Kwang-jin

    Senior Researcher

    ROK Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS)/HRNK

    As non-resident fellow at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Mr. Kim Kwang-jin is an invaluable experienced resource shedding light into the darkest corners of the North Korean regime‘s secret and illegal international financial operations. His revelations have saved re-insurance companies tens of millions of dollars and brought an end to an important method the corrupt regime purloined from foreign sources the funds it needed to maintain its internal oppression.

    In September 2003, Kim Kwang-jin and his family rushed to an airport in Southeast Asia to fly to freedom in Seoul, South Korea. Months earlier, Mr. Kim lived a privileged life working for the government’s overseas banking operations in Singapore. Then, Mr. Kim fell out of favor after he was suspected of leaking information about the regime to foreign nationals. Before being summoned back to North Korea to face severe punishment, Kim made the decision to defect with his family. During his banking career, Mr. Kim helped earn millions of dollars for what he calls North Korea’s “Royal Court Economy,” i.e., the enterprises and often illegal schemes that financially supported the country’s totalitarian regime.

    Since arriving in South Korea, Mr. Kim has served as an analyst at the ROK Institute for National Security Strategy.  A household name on TV and radio programs addressing North Korea, he has worked as a consultant for the ROK Unification Ministry as well as media organizations including KBS, MBC, and RFA. He is a standing member of the ROK National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC). His educational background includes completion of Ph.D. course work and an MBA in Finance and Insurance from Kookmin University (Seoul, 2014, 2012), a Master’s in Economics/IT of North Korea at the University of North Korean Studies (Seoul, 2008), and a BA in British Literature from Kim Il Sung University (Pyongyang, 1989). Working for the North Korean regime, Mr. Kim served as Singapore Representative of North East Asia Bank (2002-2003); an agent of the Korean Foreign Insurance Company and North East Asia Bank, Pyongyang, (1998-2002), and Professor of the Pyongyang Computer College (1991-1997).  He has published numerous papers and articles on the North Korean economy and the current power transition in North Korea, including: “Gulag, Inc.—The Use of Forced Labor in North Korea’s Export Industries” (HRNK, 2016); “After Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?” (HRNK, 2009, 2011); “Financial Institutions in North Korea and Their Role”(2016); “North Korea’s Provocations after Presidential Elections in South Korea”(2012); “On KWP’s Role and Its Prospect in Power Transition to Kim Jong-eun” (2011); “The Defector’s Tale, Inside North Korea’s Secret Economy”, World Affairs Journal (2011); “Kim Jong Il’s Royal Court Economy and Destruction of the People’s Economy” (2008); “The Change of North Korea’s Foreign Exchange Control System and its Increasing Dependence on Foreign Currency” (2008); “The Dollarization of North Korea Economy and Kim Jong Il’s Royal Court Economy” (2007); “The Korea Foreign Trade Bank and North Korea’s Foreign Exchange Control System” (2007); and “The US Financial Sanctions Regime on North Korea and Its Prospect” (2006)

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    Korean Uni Student’s Column Traces his Pathway to Activism in the Catacombs Helping North Koreans in Crisis

    [Shim Jae-hong] Beginning of an activist

    http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20160511000989

    Few who read this will have had the experience of living in fear. But the same cannot be said of North Korean defectors in China.

    “There are many North Korean defectors in China who are living under the fear of arrest. Many women end up being the victims of human trafficking, and their children become vulnerable and deprived of maternal care and basic education. Our job is to help and support these people,” said Tim Peters, a prominent social activist living in Seoul.
    Mr. Peters was speaking to my class at the invitation of my professor, Gavin Farrell who was preparing us all to write newspaper opinion pieces about North Korean matters. After finishing his talk on North Korean defectors in China, Mr. Peters took questions from the students. The talk was inspiring and I was curious about how to help. I asked him if he thought collecting clothes and sending them to defectors in China would help, thinking that would also raise awareness among those who are apathetic about the issue. Doesn’t giving someone your own clothes signify something special?
    But it soon turned out that I, in fact, was naive. He smiled and replied kindly, even though many people had already asked him this same silly question. “That can be a possibility and your motivation is surely in the right place, but keep in mind China’s already got the largest number of factories and provides clothing at quite a cheap price. You might want to consider that there are plenty of other ways to help them out that would be more effective.”
    As Professor Gavin wrapped up the class, Mr. Peters gave out his name cards, inviting us to his weekly Catacombs meetings. Everyone was welcome to come and discuss in an informal setting how we could help North Korean defectors. Out of curiosity about the American man who seemed dedicated to helping them out, I decided to go.
    What was striking there was that more than half of the people were from North America, and each one of them was eager to participate. Watching how enthusiastic these Americans and Canadians were, I felt a pang of embarrassment at my indifference toward North Koreans. These Canadians and Americans were conscientious people who did not mind putting themselves at risk for their faith. South Koreans are notable at these meetings for their absence. They simply don’t care, yet these foreigners did.
    It occurred to me that unfortunately there were too many South Koreans, including myself, unaware of opportunities to help defectors. Some South Koreans assert that even though we have the same blood does not mean we are obliged to help them. Indeed assistance to North Korean people is a highly controversial issue in Korea.
    Yet, what I learned there was that helping North Koreans is not necessarily about taking a political stance. No matter which side you take in politics you can help them if you set out to. That’s it. Those North Americans at the meeting were keen to lend a helping hand, not because they believed they had the same ethnic roots, but because they were human beings.
    In the following Tuesday Catacombs meetings, we prepared and packed bunches of seeds to send to North Korean defectors via project partners of Helping Hands Korea, Mr. Peters’ organization. These seeds have since been clandestinely transported across the border into the hands of impoverished citizens of the North who plant them around their houses to help feed their families. After a few weeks, Professor Gavin asked me what I thought of helping Mr. Peters and his group. It was awesome and eye-opening. I told him how I had become motivated to act, even doing small things like packaging seeds. “Now I feel I am a North Korean activist, starting at a beginners’ level.”
    Shim Jae-hong
    Student, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

    KOREA HERALD  [Shim Jae-hong] Beginning of an activistFew who read this will have had the experience of living in fear. But the same cannot be said of North Korean defectors in China.
    “There are many North Korean defectors in China who are living under the fear of arrest. Many women end up being the victims of human trafficking, and their children become vulnerable and deprived of maternal care and basic education. Our job is to help and support these people,” said Tim Peters, a prominent social activist living in Seoul.
    Mr. Peters was speaking to my class at the invitation of my professor, Gavin Farrell who was preparing us all to write newspaper opinion pieces about North Korean matters. After finishing his talk on North Korean defectors in China, Mr. Peters took questions from the students. The talk was inspiring and I was curious about how to help. I asked him if he thought collecting clothes and sending them to defectors in China would help, thinking that would also raise awareness among those who are apathetic about the issue. Doesn’t giving someone your own clothes signify something special?
    But it soon turned out that I, in fact, was naive. He smiled and replied kindly, even though many people had already asked him this same silly question. “That can be a possibility and your motivation is surely in the right place, but keep in mind China’s already got the largest number of factories and provides clothing at quite a cheap price. You might want to consider that there are plenty of other ways to help them out that would be more effective.”
    As Professor Gavin wrapped up the class, Mr. Peters gave out his name cards, inviting us to his weekly Catacombs meetings. Everyone was welcome to come and discuss in an informal setting how we could help North Korean defectors. Out of curiosity about the American man who seemed dedicated to helping them out, I decided to go.
    What was striking there was that more than half of the people were from North America, and each one of them was eager to participate. Watching how enthusiastic these Americans and Canadians were, I felt a pang of embarrassment at my indifference toward North Koreans. These Canadians and Americans were conscientious people who did not mind putting themselves at risk for their faith. South Koreans are notable at these meetings for their absence. They simply don’t care, yet these foreigners did.
    It occurred to me that unfortunately there were too many South Koreans, including myself, unaware of opportunities to help defectors. Some South Koreans assert that even though we have the same blood does not mean we are obliged to help them. Indeed assistance to North Korean people is a highly controversial issue in Korea.
    Yet, what I learned there was that helping North Koreans is not necessarily about taking a political stance. No matter which side you take in politics you can help them if you set out to. That’s it. Those North Americans at the meeting were keen to lend a helping hand, not because they believed they had the same ethnic roots, but because they were human beings.
    In the following Tuesday Catacombs meetings, we prepared and packed bunches of seeds to send to North Korean defectors via project partners of Helping Hands Korea, Mr. Peters’ organization. These seeds have since been clandestinely transported across the border into the hands of impoverished citizens of the North who plant them around their houses to help feed their families. After a few weeks, Professor Gavin asked me what I thought of helping Mr. Peters and his group. It was awesome and eye-opening. I told him how I had become motivated to act, even doing small things like packaging seeds. “Now I feel I am a North Korean activist, starting at a beginners’ level.”

    Shim Jae-hong                                                                                                                                 Student, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

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