The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has systematically trampled over the rights of its people since its formation. The government does not allow for political opposition, free or independent media, religious freedom, or civil society. Those who defy the regime face lengthy sentences in some of the harshest prisons in the world and are often sentenced to death. Kim Jong-Un succeeded his father in December 2011, and he has continued the regime’s woeful disregard for the human rights of North Koreans.
The North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA)
The situation is so dire that Japan and the United States have passed laws to formalize the promotion of human rights in North Korea, while the European Union has held hearings on the country’s history of abuses. For over 10 years, the North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA) remained stalled in South Korea’s National Assembly, before being passed into law on March 2, 2016.
HRF created the Global Coalition for the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2015 after a disheartening analysis of the apathy and blithe neglect shown by successive South Korean governments and legislatures with regard to the plight of North Korean refugees, the shortage of resources for North Korean defector NGOs, and the lack of education in South Korea about North Korea’s gulags and public executions. Last September, the Global Coalition visited Seoul to campaign for the Act and hosted a widely-publicized press conference that included Garry Kasparov, Serbian democracy advocate Srdja Popovic, North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho, and South Korean lawyer Kim Tae-hoon. Other members of the Global Coalition include Malaysia’s opposition leader Nurul Izzah Anwar, Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Stanford political scientist Larry Diamond, North Korean defector Jung Gwang-il, Peru’s former president Alejandro Toledo, Romania’s former president Emil Constantinescu, and Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yushchenko.
Our Previous Work
HRF began its on-the-ground work in North Korea by partnering with defector and pro-democracy activist Park Sang Hak and his organization, Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), to launch weather balloons carrying information over the border in 2013. In January 2014, HRF and FFNK completed a successful balloon launch that carried transistor radios, USBs loaded with the complete Korean language Wikipedia, DVDs, and 500,000 pro-democracy leaflets over the border. The launch was covered widely by international media, and HRF described its new initiative in The Atlantic.
Later in 2014, HRF hosted Hack North Korea, a gathering of Bay Area technologists, investors, engineers, designers, activists and North Korean defectors that aimed to spark new ideas for getting information into the world's most closed and isolated society. The participants built on this existing knowledge and brainstormed new and innovative ways of getting information past the North Korean regime’s information blockade. After hearing presentations, a panel of judges composed of experts and North Korean defectors selected a winning team. HRF plans to implement the winning idea into actual field operations.
HRF continues to look for more ways to support technologies and initiatives that are disrupting the North Korean regime's information monopoly.
The Disrupt North Korea project was co-founded by Silicon Valley angel investor Alexander Lloyd.