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Formation 2007
Type NGO, Advocacy Group
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Website http://www.hanvoice.ca

HanVoice is a Canadian-based human rights organization established in 2007 to assist North Korean refugees. The organization's name is derived from the word "han(한)", which in the Korean language means both "one" and "a sense of deploring, grief, lamentation or heart-burning". HanVoice's mission statement notes that the organization promotes "mobilizing Canadians on behalf of the North Korean people".


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The current refugee crisis stems in large part from the periods of famine that the country experienced in the mid 1990s. Approximately 1 to 3 million people perished in the mid 1990s in North Korea due to famine. The North Korean people rely on a central food distribution system for much of their needs. Due to floods and government mismanagement during this period, the famine became one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has ever witnessed. It is under these circumstances that many North Koreans decided to flee or seek food and water from neighbouring China, and it is at this juncture that the North Korean refugee crisis began.

Refugee Crisis[edit]

China does not consider North Koreans found in their territory to be refugees. Out of political expediency toward the government of North Korea, its Chinese counterpart labels North Korean refugees as "illegal economic migrants", despite meeting all criteria as refugees under international law. As a result, North Korean refugees found in China are repatriated back to North Korea where they face torture, imprisonment in gulag-type camps, forced labour, and sometimes public executions. To avoid repatriation, most North Koreans in China remain in hiding and are at the mercy of smugglers, bounty hunters, and human traffickers.

Despite these risks and difficulties, there are anywhere between 30,000 and 400,000 North Korean refugees within China. A small number of these refugees are fortunate enough to make the journey to refugee-friendly nations with the assistance of a few non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private citizens who have set up a small "underground railroad". Through these secret networks, refugees have reached sanctuary in places such as South Korea, Europe, the United States, and even Canada.

HanVoice's Objectives[edit]

  • Advocate for the rights of North Korean refugees
  • Enter into dialogue with the Canadian government and other international organizations on behalf of North Korean refugees
  • Partner with other organizations working toward similar objectives
  • Assist North Koreans in Canada

Past Events[edit]

  • HanVoice's Launch Event - April 2007
HanVoice formally launched itself at the Innis Town Hall at the University of Toronto with a screening of the documentary Seoul Train. Over 200 people attended this formative event. The Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, Jason Kenney, was a special guest in attendance to speak on behalf of the Canadian government. [1]
  • Candlelight Vigil - October 2007
Held in Mel Lastman Square to remember and commemorate those who are suffering. A night of moving tributes, performances and a moment of silence instilled a renewed sense of commitment to the refugees who need a voice. [2]
  • HanVoice Fundraiser - November 2007
Held at Toika lounge to celebrate the work that HanVoice had been doing. The event was a huge success and raised significant funds for HanVoice's efforts.
  • Discussion Forum - February 2008
A forum to discuss the issues surrounding the North Korean refugee crisis involving other organizations, refugee lawyers, settlement groups and interested members of the community.
  • HanVoice and Kollaboration - March 2008
Participated in Kollaboration to raise awareness about Reveal '08 campaign by showing a video titled "How To Save A Life". [3]
  • Reveal '08 Campaign Launch - March 2008
Featuring guest speaker Tim A. Peters, HanVoice launched its Reveal '08 campaign to an audience of politicians, journalists, student groups, and members of the community. [4]
  • Sounds from the Streets - August 2008
Several members of HanVoice displayed their musical talents and handed out informational pamphlets on the busy streets of Toronto to raise public awareness about the North Korean refugee crisis. [5]
  • Candlelight Vigil and March - September 2008
On the night of Nuit Blanche in Toronto, HanVoice walked the streets in silence holding signs, and held a candlelight vigil in Queen's Park to raise public awareness of the crisis. [6] [7]