U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

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Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea Logo.jpg
Founded October 2001
Type Non-profit
NGO
Location
Key people Roberta Cohen (Co-Chair, Board of Directors)
Andrew Natsios (Co-Chair, Board of Directors)
Greg Scarlatoiu (Executive Director)
Website www.hrnk.org

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), formerly known as the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, is a Washington D.C.-based non-governmental research organization that “seeks to raise awareness about conditions in North Korea and to publish research that focuses the world’s attention on human rights abuses in that country.”[1]

Founded in 2001 by a group of foreign policy and human rights specialists, HRNK has published twelve reports on issues relevant to North Korean human rights today.[2] The Committee’s leadership has testified to Congress about North Korean human rights and China’s forced repatriation of North Korean refugees.[3][4] In April 2012, HRNK held its first major conference on North Korean human rights to launch its publication, The Hidden Gulag, Second Edition on North Korean political prison camps.[5]

History[edit]

Establishment[edit]

Founded in 2001 by a group of foreign policy and human rights specialists, HRNK filled a major gap in non-governmental expertise on North Korea. Well-established organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch initially found it difficult to incorporate North Korea, where information is notoriously challenging to obtain, into traditional models of research and advocacy. HRNK, an explicitly non-partisan research organization, began to break new ground in 2003 with the first edition of The Hidden Gulag by David Hawk. This was the first comprehensive study of North Korea’s prison camp system.

Past Non-Partisan Involvement[edit]

In the initial stages, HRNK cultivated its image as a non-partisan holder of expertise on North Korea in the United States. Early members of the Board of Directors included individuals with varying political affiliations and policy prescriptions—including Chuck Downs, Nicholas Eberstadt, Carl Gershman, Morton Abramowitz, and Samantha Powers. Co-chairs of the Board of Directors included US Representative Stephen J. Solarz and Ambassador James R. Lilley, for whom the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2001 is named. Solarz, a former New York Democratic congressman, was known as the “Marco Polo of Congress” for his long record of international travel and involvement in foreign affairs. Most notably, he was the first American politician to visit Kim Il-sung. Lilley was personally close to former President George HW Bush and served as Ambassador to the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China. Both Solarz and Lilley garnered respect from both sides of the aisle and emphasized a spirit of bipartisan comity.

Major Events[edit]

"Hidden Gulag" Conference (2012)[edit]

At the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington D.C., HRNK hosted its first major conference on the "Hidden Gulag," addressing North Korea’s network of political prison camps, on April 10, 2012. HRNK launched its publication, the second edition of The Hidden Gulag by former Amnesty International Executive Director and human rights specialist David Hawk, at the conference[5]

The conference attracted significant media attention, including an editorial in The Washington Post that touted the conference as “unprecedented."[6] Robert King, the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, addressed the conference. Glyn Davies, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korean Policy, was also in attendance.[7]

"A Call for Action" Conference (2012)[edit]

HRNK organized a conference at the Simon Wiesenthal Center at the Museum of Tolerance on October 12, 2012 on "North Korea’s Political Prisoner Camp System and the Plight of North Korean Refugees: A Call for Action."

HRNK's Executive Director and members of the Board of Directors spoke at the conference and provided education on North Korea. Additionally, HRNK arranged for speakers Rabbi Abraham Cooper, The Honorable Howard Berman, The Honorable Brad Sherman, The Honorable Ed Royce, R.O.K. Consul General Shin Yeon-sung, David Hawk, Dr. Han Dong-ho, Blaine Harden, Shin Dong-hyuk, Hannah Song, Melanie Kirkpatrick, and Dr. Cho Jung-hyun to speak.[8]

"Heart of Darkness" Conference (2013)[edit]

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and HRNK hosted a conference calling for the dismantlement of North Korea’s political prison camps at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, IL on November 6, 2013. HRNK provided the speakers, coordinated for the event, invited the Korean American community in the Chicago area, and presented talks on North Korea's political prison camps system.

This conference was delivered to 300 people, including Korean Americans and Holocaust survivors. The event, which was translated simultaneously on-site in Korean and English, was led and featured HRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu, Resident Fellow Professor Hyun In-ae, and Board Co-Chair Roberta Cohen. They discussed the promotion of effective action and ways the Chicago and greater Midwest community can become involved in the North Korea-related advocacy and awareness.[9]

"Human Rights in North Korea: An Address by Michael Kirby" Conference (2014)[edit]

The Brookings Institution and HRNK hosted an event in which Michael Kirby, chair of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea (COI), addressed the report's findings and recommendations. The year-long investigation, which included hearings and interviews with North Korean defectors, found that “in many instances, the violations found entailed crimes against humanity based on state policies."[10]

Following Justice Kirby's address, Marcus Noland of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and an HRNK board member commented on the report. And Roberta Cohen, Co-chair of HRNK and Non-resident Senior Fellow, Brookings, was on a panel discussing the implications of the COI. The conference drew significant media attention, and it was aired on C-SPAN.

Publications[edit]

HRNK has released 18 publications on North Korean human rights, based on independent research and the testimony of North Korean defectors. The most recent publications have addressed the reports of changes in the prison camps, the North Korean security apparatus, North Korea’s “songbun” social classification system, and the Kim regime’s network of “hidden gulag” political prison camps.[2]

  1. North Korea’s Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps by David Hawk (2013)
  2. Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korean Police State- Updated by Ken E. Gause (2013)
  3. North Korea’s Camp No. 25 by HRNK and Digital Globe, Inc. (2013)
  4. North Korea’s Camp No. 22- Updated by HRNK and Digital Globe, Inc.
  5. North Korea’s Camp No. 22 by HRNK and Digital Globe, Inc.
  6. Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korean Police State by Ken E. Gause (2012)
  7. Marked For Life: Songbun, North Korea's Social Classification System by Robert Collins (2012)
  8. The Hidden Gulag, Second Edition by David Hawk (2012)
  9. Taken! North Korea's Criminal Abduction of Citizens in Other Countries by Yoshi Yamamoto (2011)
  10. North Korea After Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection? by Kim Kwang-jin (2011)
  11. Lives for Sale: Personal Accounts of Women Fleeing North Korea to China by Lee Hae-young (2009)
  12. After Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection? by Kim Kwang-jin (2009)
  13. Failure to Protect: The Ongoing Challenge of North Korea by DLA Piper LLC (2008)
  14. Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea by Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom LLP (2007)
  15. Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea by DLA Piper LLC (2006)
  16. The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response by Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland (2006)
  17. Hunger and Human Rights: The Politics of Famine in North Korea by Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland (2005)
  18. The Hidden Gulag, First Edition by David Hawk (2003)
  19. Illicit: North Korea's Evolving Operations to Earn Hard Currency by Sheena Chestnut Greitens (2014)

HRNK and Congress[edit]

In September 2011, HRNK executive director Greg Scarlatoiu testified at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, entitled “Human Rights in North Korea: Challenges and Opportunities”. Scarlatoiu emphasized the flow of information into North Korea, recommending on behalf of HRNK that “the United States should continue to expand radio broadcasting into North Korea and encourage other efforts that provide information directly to the North Korean people in accordance with the North Korean Human Rights Act.”[3]

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China received testimony from HRNK chair Roberta Cohen and Scarlatoiu on March 5, 2012 at a hearing on “China’s Repatriation of North Korean Refugees.” HRNK presented six recommendations to the commission and encouraged China to fulfill international obligations to protect North Korean refugees.[4]

In June 2014, HRNK co-chair Andrew Natsios testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, in what was entitled "Human Rights Abuses and Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea". In addition to outlining the ongoing crimes against humanity exposed by the COI, Natsios claimed, "While the US administration proposed and discussed imposing sanctions and other forms of pressure on the North Korean regime on the UN Security Council level, they were measures taken in response to North Korea’s aggressions and nuclear weapons program, unrelated to human rights issues."[11]

HRNK and Major Human Rights Issues[edit]

International Abductions[edit]

HRNK released its publication, Taken: North Korea's Criminal Abduction of Citizens of Other Countries, to a crowd of 150 people in Washington, D.C. on May 5, 2011. Taken is a study that documents North Korean abductions, which total over 180,000 abductees, and exposes the breadth and scope of North Korea's actions. This report informed the international and DC communities about these crimes and helped build evidence for North Korea to be held accountable for its actions.

Prisons[edit]

HRNK, The International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, and Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation hosted the presentation of "Trapped in North Korea’s Gulag:The Story of Oh Kil-nam and His Family" on November 6, 2011. The event featured Dr. Oh Kil-nam and was delivered at the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Foundation. HRNK executive director spoke at the panel presentation.

HRNK released its publication, Hidden Gulag Second Edition: Political Prison Camps, and held a conference at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The report calls for the dismantlement of the vast North Korean political prisoner camp system in which 150,000 to 200,000 are incarcerated. The April 10, 2012 conference on North Korea’s gulag brought together former North Korean prisoners, human rights experts, representatives of governments, UN agencies, Korea specialists, the private sector, and NGOs to inform, collaborate, discuss, and make recommendations on North Korean human rights issues.

HRNK presented "Human Rights in North Korea: Prison Camps in 2012" at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS on December 13, 2012. Gordon Flake, co-vice chair of the board of directors at HRNK and executive director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, and HRNK board member Carl Gershman and president of National Endowment for Democracy presented information on North Korea during the panel discussion.

Songbun[edit]

See also: Songbun

HRNK released the first comprehensive study of North Korea’s discriminatory social classification system, Marked for Life: Songbun, North Korea's Social Classification System, to a group of 200 people at the American Enterprise Institute on June 6th 2012. As a starting point, this report recommended that North Korea allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Special Rapporteur in North Korea full, free, and unimpeded access, so that they can study the impact of the songbun system on the human rights of North Koreans. Governments, NGOs and international organizations are urged to call attention to this deliberate state policy of discrimination and work to eliminate this practice that so flagrantly violates basic principles of human rights. This report informed the international and DC communities about this political system and helped further understanding of and policy responses to the North Korean regime.

Mass Surveillance and Coercion[edit]

HRNK launched its report, Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of North Korea’s Police State, at the Korea Economic Institute (KEI) on July 19, 2012, to a group of 100 people. Authored by North Korean leadership specialist Ken E. Gause, the publication reveals the labyrinth of pervasive security agencies and informants that help the Kim regime maintain surveillance and control over its people. This report informed the international and DC communities about the North Korean state security system and helped further understanding of and policy responses to the North Korean regime.

Board of Directors[edit]

HRNK's Board of Directors includes prominent individuals from the North Korea and human rights policy communities.[12]

Roberta Cohen
Co-Chair
Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution


Andrew Natsios
Co-Chair
Former Director, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)


Suzanne Scholte
Vice Co-Chair
President, Defense Forum Foundation
Seoul Peace Prize Laureate


Gordon Flake
Vice Co-Chair
Chief Executive Officer, Perth USAsia Centre


Helen Louise-Hunter
Secretary
Attorney
Author, Kim Il-Song's North Korea


John Despres
Treasurer
Consultant on International Financial and Strategic Affairs


Morton Abramowitz
Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation


Jerome Cohen
Co-Director, US-Asia Law Institute, NYU Law School


Lisa Colacurcio
Advisor, Impact Investments


Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Associate Dean of The Simon Wiesenthal Center, LA


Jack David
Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute


Paula Dobriansky
Senior Vice President and Head of Government Affairs, Thomson Reuters


Nicholas Eberstadt
Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute


Carl Gershman
President, National Endowment for Democracy


Stephen Kahng
President, Kahng Foundation


David Kim
Coordinator, The Asia Foundation


Thai Lee
President, SHI International Inc.


Debra Liang-Fenton
U.S. Institute of Peace, Former Executive Director HRNK


Winston Lord
Former Assistant Secretary for East Asia, Department of State


Marcus Noland
Peterson Institute


Jacqueline Pak
Professor, Cornell University


Katrina Lantos Swett
President and CEO, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea". The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "HRNK Publications". Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Testimony of Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea". U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Greg Scarlatoiu - Congressional-Executive Commission on China". Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Hidden Gulag April 10". The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Board, Editorial (13 April 2012). "Turning A Blind Eye To North Korea's "Hidden Gulag"". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "JBI Co-Sponsors Conference on Human Rights in North Korea". The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  8. ^ http://www.museumoftolerance.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=tmL6KfNVLtH&b=6771111&ct=12209009. Retrieved 4 February 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/11/116_145812.html. Retrieved 4 February 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ http://connect.brookings.edu/register-to-attend-human-rights-north-korea-kirby. Retrieved 3 September 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ {{cite web|url=http://hrnk.org/uploads/pdfs/NATSIOS%20TESTIMONY%20FINAL.pdf%7Caccessdate=3 September 2014}}
  12. ^ "Board of Directors". Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Retrieved 24 June 2012.