August 28, 2023

And the Truth Shall Set You Free

By Nick Miller

August 28, 2023

Nick Miller is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Edinburgh. His doctoral work examines how the U.S. Intelligence Community analyzed North Korean and Chinese politics during the Cold War. He previously served as a defense analyst for the U.S. Air Force, managing a variety of East Asian security issues.

As the war in Ukraine drags on, the United States has stated that Russia has been looking for resources from North Korea, including weapons and ammunition, in return for providing food and commodities to Pyongyang. While the food situation is reportedly at its worst since Kim Jong-un came to power, there have not been clear signs of a serious famine.[1]


The Biden administration’s policy of openly disseminating intelligence to U.S. allies and the public regarding the war in Ukraine should be maintained to keep everyone aware of the atrocities occurring in Ukraine. This also helps shine a much-needed light on the actions that the North Korean regime continues to take to support Russia, thus violating numerous UN sanctions that have already been imposed.




In March, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against a Slovakian individual who was attempting to broker arms deals between Russia and North Korea in exchange for new commercial aircraft and raw materials, for the purpose of replacing weapons and munitions spent in Ukraine.[2] From November to December 2022, the United States exposed how North Korea has been covertly funneling weapons via the Middle East and Africa to support Russia.[3],[4] North Korean state media, KCNA, stated that it had “never exported weapons or ammunitions to Russia” and did not plan to export any, according to an unnamed vice director general of the General Bureau of Equipment in the Ministry of National Defense.[5] Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, also dismissed the reports.[6]




There have been reports that North Korea is potentially sending construction workers to Russian-occupied Eastern Ukraine. While this reporting is doubted by some experts, this step would further strengthen Russian-North Korean ties, which have languished after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lim Soo-ho of South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy stated that Russia had utilized North Korean constructions workers in the past due to their low cost. It is also a common strategy for North Korea to export its labor as a way for the regime to generate hard currency, but this activity was targeted in 2017 under UN Security Resolution 2397. Workers were estimated to provide between $200-500 million a year for the North Korean regime. Only a small portion is ever seen by the individual workers, who are under the scrutiny of the Ministry of State Security.[7]  


According to an October 2021 Daily NK report, North Korea prepared to finalize the selection of 800-1,000 workers to the Donbas region in November. An unnamed source stated that North Korea, China, and Russia had agreed that sending North Korean workers did not violate existing sanctions.[8] There have been unconfirmed reports that the move was delayed due to not wanting to send people to a “danger zone.”[9]


What is to be done and adapted for future use? 


Intelligence assessments are almost always kept classified, but the Biden administration has publicly disclosed them to spotlight and shame Russia. It quickly declassified and disseminated intelligence to key allies to highlight a range of issues, including Iranian arms support to Russia and atrocities committed by the Wagner Group. A similar policy should be adapted and utilized as a future tool of U.S. statecraft with respect to North Korea.[10] 


Even after the War in Ukraine reaches a conclusion, this strategy needs to continue and be adapted by future administrations to assist the North Korean people, with the goal of weakening the figures and bureaucratic structures that enable the oppression of the North Korean people. 


Some areas that the Biden administration could investigate include:


Prison Labor Complex. This includes the networks that enable the construction and operation of prison camps, as well as the distribution and export of items produced at these camps. Such networks could be targeted through sanctions by the United States, its allies, and the United Nations.


Food Security. While North Korea has not experienced a second “Arduous March,” it is reportedly experiencing a serious food shortage. Any food that is secured by the regime from the outside world will not go to the people who need it most, but rather, most likely, to elites and the Korean People’s Army.[11] If and when food aid is sent to North Korea, any diversion of this aid could be disclosed in the same way that North Korea’s ship-to-ship fuel transfers have been reported.


Oil Shipments. While China has denied facilitating North Korean oil shipments, China is still a core facilitator for the weakening of UN sanction enforcement and the current sanctions have not ended North Korea’s ability to finance and advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.[12], [13] According to Cho Bong-hyun of IBK Bank in Seoul, the targeting of oil supplies could paralyze the North Korean economy. However, the biggest obstacle to a full-on oil embargo is China’s veto power in the UN Security Council, since China does not want to manage the impact of a North Korean collapse on its border.[14], [15] In an 2020 annual report to the UN Security Council, it was noted that China’s shipping industry was instrumental in facilitating the coal and oil trade by North Korea in “defiance of UN sanctions.”[16]


While China continues to facilitate North Korean trade and weaken sanctions enforcement, the United States must take a tougher stance on China. China’s continued support ensures the Kim family’s security and continued control over the country. Severing that resource will be essential in creating meaningful change, as it deprives the regime of the means to fuel its weapons programs.



Focusing on these three issues will erode the North Korean regime’s ability to obtain and utilize resources at the expense of the people. By adapting the Ukrainian plan to North Korea, the United States can expose Pyongyang’s actions and counter its assertions. Truth must be told through information campaigns aimed at the people of North Korea. It is critical to push back against disinformation campaigns that come out of North Korea or China. By exposing Pyongyang’s policies and practices and the individuals responsible for implementing them, the United States and its allies can help bring a brighter future for the North Korean people. 

[1] “U.S. says Russia looking to North Korea for weapons needed for Ukraine War,” Associated Press, March 30, 2023. 

[2] U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Treasury Sanctions Facilitator for Attempted Arms Deals Between North Korea and Russia,” March 30, 2023.

[3] David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali, “White House Says North Korea supplying Russia with artillery shells,” Reuters, November 3, 2022.

[4] George Wright, “North Korea sold arms to Russia’s Wagner group, US says,” BBC News, December 22, 2022.

[5] Joori Roh, “N.Korea says it has never supplied weapons or ammunition to Russia – KCNA,” Reuters, September 21, 2022.

[6] Trever Hunnicutt and David Brunnstrom, “U.S.: Russia could be about to buy ‘millions’ of North Korean shells, rockets,” Reuters, September 7, 2022.

[7] Kim Tong-hyung, “N. Korea may send workers to Russian occupied east Ukraine,” Associated Press, September 1, 2022.

[8] Mun Dong-Hui, “N. Korea finalises selection of workers to join reconstruction efforts in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine,” Daily NK, October 21, 2022.

[9] Mun Dong-Hui, “Pyongyang delays sending of workers to Eastern Ukraine due to security concerns,” Daily NK, February 1, 2023.

[10] Julian E. Barnes and Adam Entous, “How the U.S. Adopted a New Intelligence Playbook to Expose Russia’s War Plans,” The New York Times, February 23, 2023.

[11] Human Rights Watch, “A Matter of Survival: The North Korean Government’s Control of Food and the Risk of Hunger,” May 3, 2006.

[12] “China Denies Involvement in Illicit Oil Shipments to North Korea,” VOA News, December 29, 2017.

[13] “North Korea: South seizes ship amid row over illegal oil transfer,” BBC News, December 29, 2017.

[14] Stella Cooper, Christoph Koetti, and Muyi Xiao, “5 Takeaways From Investigating Covert Oil Deliveries to North Korea,” The New York Times, March 22, 2021.

[15] Tony Monroe and Jane Chung, “For North Korea, cutting off oil supplies would be devastating,” Reuters, April 13, 2017.

[16] “North Korea defies sanctions with China’s help, UN Panel says,” The Guardian, April 18, 2020.

August 11, 2023

Street Market

By Morninglight*

August 11, 2023

*The following short story was written by a North Korean escapee.

Kyungju got out of school around 5 p.m. Thinking that today’s school activity ended early, she chose to walk home. After passing a small playground, the station street appeared on her right. As usual, the street was half filled with folks selling stuff, buyers, and passers-by. Then, from a distance, she saw a man in a beige-brown uniform walk towards the street. He wore an armband that read gyu-chal-dae. He was a trainee at the local police station.
        The trainee blew his whistle wildly to clear the street. Within an instant, many of the sellers jumped up, packed away their stuff in an instant, and ran. A lady who had chunks of cabbages took the most time. As the trainee approached, cabbages tumbled to the ground from her wide wrapping cloth. The lady struggled desperately.
        She seemed to be in her mid-40s. With a small body and a weary face, it looked as though her family depended on her to make a living. This was the first time that Kyungju had seen her, but she could tell that this woman had experienced great hardship, and could not afford to have her cabbages taken away.
        As Kyungju looked on, she hoped that the lady would run far away, so that the trainee could not catch her, and so that her cabbages wouldn’t be confiscated by the police. 

The street is much quieter now. There are no sellers. The gyuchaldae trainee is nowhere to be seen. Pacing her footsteps a bit faster, Kyungju looked for the woman. If she sees her, she wants to ask her, “Are you alright?” The lady did not appear, and Kyungju felt a bit sad. Maybe she should’ve run after her. But more than that, she was relieved that the lady managed to escape.
        Then, Kyungju imagined what the lady might say in reply. She would say “Yes, it’s okay,” even though she is not alright. Then she will let out a big sigh—the sigh that speaks of her devastated heart, the sigh that tells her big relief at not being caught. Then the woman would say:

        “Today is not the first time. And it’s not even just me.”

        “That’s true. It’s any street where selling stuff is not allowed.” 

       “Folks like me can’t afford a space in the local market. Only if the gyuchaldae guys         have mercy when chasing us down, it would be so much bearable.”

        “I wish we can make them never show up again.”

The lady will smile in silence. Though she understands the futility of her situation, she is comforted by hearing these words. 

The conversation in Kyungju’s imagination ended with unrealistic hope. But her thoughts kept on going. Like the woman said, today’s incident is far from a surprise. It is a norm to the point that many folks shake it off and accept it as part of life. In the worst case, though, they would lose their merchandise. This could shatter their lives. If the officer has mercy on you and lets you go, you are lucky that day. But not everyone is so lucky, and you can’t afford to take risks. Then, could you tell the trainee guys to leave the sellers alone? Sure, a brave soul could stand up and raise their voice, but it will not make the problem disappear.
        The sellers hate the gyuchaldae officers. Then again, what can the officers do? As part of their post-military service, they are assigned to the local police department. Far away from home, they have no attachment to the local folks, which is why it is easier to be merciless and strict. Perhaps they might not like their job. In fact, some of them are sick and tired of chasing and shouting at commoners who are simply trying to survive. But it is their duty. Their superiors order them to clear up the merchants off the street, and they have to carry their orders.
        It is a muddy reality. The deep resentment (han) built in people’s souls cried out quietly. Yet it does not make their lives easier, so the folks at the bottom blame themselves. They say: who would I blame? Nobody. If I was from a different background, I won’t even be living in this circumstance. If I had a connection with a police officer, I would easily avoid the gyuchaldae’s rules. It’s my fault that I’m not from a privileged family—my lack of ability to do better. And this is the cost that I have to endure…
        No one blames the societal structure. No one blames the rule-makers. Even if they fully understand the root of the problem, they won’t dare to speak out. Of course they wouldn’t. What would they say, and why? To get in trouble and be punished? No one would dare to do so in public.

Kyungju felt bitter at the reality she observed. Yet she couldn’t stop her thinking there. People can’t live like this forever. This outrageous system of rules and regulations has to be fixed. Can somebody change this? It would have to be a high-ranking official with authority and influence. Then, she scorned her hope. Why would they care? They probably don’t even know what struggles these street merchants have to endure. Also, those in such positions have everything to lose. Maybe it’s better if somebody with nothing to lose can question the system. This hope seemed to be more realistic. Still, Kyungju felt bad for what that person would face. It would be too much for one person to bear.

The evening sun set slowly. The sunset painted the sky with an orange and purple hue. Under these two shades of light, the day appeared to be both ordinary and odd. Carrying the image of the street and a nameless hope in her heart, Kyungju walked steadily with her gaze on the setting sun.

July 05, 2023

North Korean Human Rights and the Future of the U.S.-ROK Alliance

By Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director

July 5, 2023

The following text is adapted from the keynote address delivered by Greg Scarlatoiu, HRNK Executive Director, at the inaugural conference of the America Korea United Society (AKUS) at the Korean Community Center in Alexandria, VA on June 22, 2023.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hearty congratulations to AKUS on your vision and mission. Your credo, “respect, integrity, and transparency,” summarizes the core values we need to share to keep developing the American constitutional republic and the liberal democracy of the Republic of Korea. These values define the U.S.-ROK alliance, a brotherhood and sisterhood forged in blood on the brutal and unforgiving battlefields of the Korean War. They are also the key to unifying the Korean Peninsula under a free, democratic, capitalist Republic of Korea.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice of July 27, 1953. The Korean Peninsula is still divided, and there is little to celebrate. It is also the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK alliance, which was built on the Mutual Defense Treaty of October 1, 1953. Over those seven decades, this alliance has expanded beyond security issues to cover economic cooperation, education, and culture. This is truly an unbreakable alliance, friendship, and partnership. Your commitment to preserving and enhancing the alliance will only make our two nations and our bond even stronger.

It is still the ultimate strategic objective of the Kim regime to undermine, subvert, and eventually annex South Korea. After all, the Kim family regime is not even a political cartel. It is an absolute political monopoly. The Kim family rules North Korea through the Korean Workers’ Party, led by its Organization and Guidance Department and its Central Committee.

The only challenge to the post-industrial, kleptocratic, dynastic regime of North Korea is South Korea. South Korea is free, democratic, and prosperous. It is an economic powerhouse—the world’s tenth largest economy. South Korea’s success presents an existential threat to the Kim regime. In particular, it fears that the people of North Korea will come to view the South Korean model—sustained by the extraordinary talent, determination, and hard work of the Korean people and underpinned by strong ties to the United States—as a superior alternative to the Kim regime.

We all want peace. We all want to lead by example. We all want peace through economic, political, social, cultural, and military strength. We all want peace, reconciliation, and the eventual reunification of all Koreans under the Republic of Korea. The path toward the dream of Korean reunification does not lie in false promises or peace declarations that ignore the human rights of North Koreans and the threat the Kim regime poses to international peace and security. There cannot be peace without justice. In striving for Korean reunification, we must address the grave military and security threats that North Korea poses, as well as its egregious human rights violations.

To bring change to the Korean Peninsula, we must find out and tell the truth about the Kim regime’s crimes against humanity. It is essential to create a coalition of like-minded governments, civil society organizations, and international institutions to put an end to a human rights catastrophe that simply cannot be tolerated in the 21st century.

However, change must ultimately come from the people of North Korea. We must empower them through information from the outside world by telling them three stories: first, the story of their own human rights, which they are unaware of; second, the corruption of their leadership, especially the corruption of the inner core of the Kim family; and third, the story of the outside world, especially the story of free, democratic, prosperous South Korea.

The mission statement and activities of AKUS align perfectly with this vision. I wish you all God’s speed, and look forward to working together to bring freedom, human rights, democracy, and economic opportunity to the people of North Korea.

June 22, 2023

North Korean Human Rights: The Path Ahead

By Dr. Kim Dong-su, Senior Advisor to the Institute for National Security Strategy

June 22, 2023

Dr. Kim Dong-su, Senior Advisor to the Institute for National Security Strategy, is a former North Korean diplomat who last served at North Korea’s mission to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome before defecting in 1998. Since arriving in South Korea, he has written extensively on North Korea’s foreign policy and regime structure. He recently served as an advisor to the Yoon Suk-yeol Presidential Transition Committee and a visiting scholar at Waseda University. Dr. Kim has a B.A. in Political Science from Dar-es-Salaam National University and the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Kyungnam University.

The following text is adapted from remarks delivered at "North Korean Human Rights: Is There Still a Way Forward?," a conference hosted by HRNK, the Hoover Institution, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on May 18, 2023 at NED’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. 


The Kim Jong-un regime presents a challenge of the utmost urgency to the international community. Without denuclearization and fundamental political change in North Korea, peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula will only be an illusion. Likewise, the values of freedom and human rights on the Korean Peninsula will not be truly realized either. To achieve denuclearization and internal political change, we first need to carefully assess the situation the Kim Jong-un regime is facing, as well as the steps that it may take. 

The current situation in North Korea is defined by four characteristics: i) rapid nuclear advancement; ii) severe economic hardship; iii) deepening public discontent and widening social unrest; and iv) intensifying coercion, control, surveillance, and punishment against the population.

As most of the national budget is spent on developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and missiles, the North Korean people are facing an economic catastrophe. Moreover, in the past few years, North Korea has been battered on three fronts: sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic, and natural disasters. This has exacerbated the shortage of goods and food supplies. Recently, there have been cases of starvation.

This has given rise to greater public discontent in North Korea. The regime is losing popular support, and the influence of South Korean popular culture is expanding across the country. Under these circumstances, the Kim Jong-un regime has intensified its reign of terror as it commits egregious human rights violations. It has enacted unjust laws such as the “Anti-Reactionary Thought and Culture Act” and the “Youth Education Act." 

In this way, the Kim Jong-un regime's excessive obsession with nuclear weapons leads to a vicious cycle of severe economic difficulties, greater suffering among the people, deepening popular discontent, and harsher surveillance and repression.


The Future of North Korea’s Human Rights Diplomacy

Over the past decade, many international entities and countries, including the United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the DPRK , the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC), the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), the UN, the European Union (EU), the United States, and Japan—together with many other NGOs in South Korea and elsewhere—have persistently advocated for and promoted North Korean human rights.

Through such efforts, the human rights situation in North Korea has been exposed to the world. This includes the situation in North Korea’s kwan-li-so (political prison camps), kyo-hwa-so (long-term prison labor facilities), and jip-kyul-so (short-term detention facilities), where detainees are publicly executed, and egregious human rights violations are committed. Violations of women’s rights and children’s rights have been brought to light, including the use of children for forced labor.

There have been more opportunities for North Korean escapees to testify on the international stage, resulting in greater international attention toward the issue. This has made it considerably more difficult for North Korea to address the issue through diplomacy.

Through the work of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Seoul office, which specializes in investigating North Korea’s human rights violations, there is now a greater capacity to document and collect evidence of human rights violations in North Korea. Meanwhile, the Kim Jong-un regime continues to purge and execute officials and take severe measures to block the inflow of outside information.

Following the release of the UN COI report in 2014, North Korea largely ignored human rights on the international stage. However, the international community has been more assertive toward North Korea on this issue. Specifically, the work of the UN COI and NGOs such as NKFC and HRNK in Seoul, London, Washington, D.C., and Tokyo helped to investigate and document the human rights situation in North Korea. The willingness of many North Korean escapees to provide testimony seemed to indicate that the Kim Jong-un regime’s days were numbered. 

Going forward, North Korea’s diplomacy on human rights is likely to focus on preventing Kim Jong-un’s name from being directly tied to documentation and accountability initiatives. To do so, North Korea will firmly shut its doors. It will cease contact, exchange, and dialogue with international human rights institutions, human rights organizations, and human rights activists.

At the same time, however, North Korea will seek to counter international pressure on human rights by seeking help from its close allies on the international stage. Pyongyang will engage with individual states and do everything it can to prevent Kim Jong-un’s name from being included in UN human rights resolutions. 

In particular, North Korea will frame criticisms of its human rights record as a scheme to subvert the regime, and thereby further justify the development of nuclear weapons as a means of protection. It will heighten political tensions and pressure South Korea to break away from international efforts to address North Korean human rights.

Over the past few years, efforts to address North Korean human rights on the international stage have been successful in several ways. The UN has taken a proactive role in comprehensively investigating human rights violations in North Korea. Specifically, the presence of the OHCHR’s Seoul office provides a lasting, institutional basis for systematically documenting North Korean human rights issues. It appears that North Korea is paying very close attention to these efforts by the international community to address the human rights issue.

Going forward, North Korea will react aggressively to the international community’s action on human rights, which it regards as part of a “peaceful transition strategy” to overthrow the regime. At the same time, North Korea will try to fundamentally block the West’s calls to improve human rights, emphasizing its "political autonomy" and "right to development." Moreover, to deflect criticisms of its human rights record, North Korea will persistently raise human rights issues in South Korea, the United States, and Japan.

How to Raise the Profile of North Korean Human Rights

From now on, we must develop and execute an intensive campaign of psychological warfare to blow the wind of freedom and truth into North Korea, which stands on a sand castle of the worst lies and fabrications in the world. Comprehensive psychological warfare against the highly closed North Korean regime will be more powerful than nuclear weapons.

We have the responsibility to raise awareness among the international community about the worst human rights situation in the world. At the same time, we must also seek ways to inform the North Korean people about freedom, democracy, and human rights, so that they can resist the tyrannical regime. For this purpose, the Yoon Suk-yeol government must place the protection of the North Korean people’s human rights, as well as the improvement of their economic rights, at the very center of its North Korea policy.

The people of North Korea, who are citizens of the Republic of Korea (ROK) pursuant to the ROK Constitution, are dying away as slaves of the Kim family. No objective—be it unification, exchange, cooperation, or peace—can take precedence over the North Korean people's right to live or their human rights. In other words, any policy towards North Korea which ignores the suffering of the North Korean people is bound to be hypocritical.

If the North Korean people are neglected, any related act and even unification itself are bound to be hypocritical. This is because the ultimate purpose of North Korea policy or unification policy is not to maintain peace or secure power, but to firstly liberate the North Korean people from slavery. If that is not the goal, then there is no reason to deal with North Korea or seek unification. It would be enough to protect ourselves and ensure our own safety.

The experiences of the past half century and recent years have clearly shown that the Kim dynasty will never change its ways. Moreover, considering the Kim regime’s nature, history, and institutional structure, it is meaningless to seek reconciliation, negotiation, compromise, or coexistence with the Kim regime. It is also clear that the Kim dynasty remains the source of all evils that arise from the division of the Korean Peninsula, including nuclear and missile issues, human rights violations, threats to national security, and the “South-South divide” in South Korea.

In this context, I believe it is necessary to set a basic direction for international efforts to promote human rights in North Korea. It is necessary to actively raise the issue of human rights through the UN and other related institutions which North Korea has joined. In addition, it would be productive to discuss North Korean human rights in the context of economic & security cooperation. Creating a new regional human rights body in the region would also provide a forum for discussing North Korean human rights.

It is especially important for the Yoon administration to work together with the rapidly growing network of domestic and international human rights NGOs to call for improvement of human rights in North Korea.

There are three priorities in this regard. First, it is necessary to raise North Korean human rights issues more proactively at the UN. Second, it is critical to discuss human rights in North Korea within the framework of economic or security cooperation. A new regional human rights body could be created for such discussions as well. Third, it is of paramount importance to institutionalize cooperation with human rights NGOs, and to actively support human rights NGOs led by North Korean escapees.

The North Korean human rights issue is critical because the action we take on this issue can catalyze changes in not only the consciousness and ideology of the North Korean people, but also the political system in North Korea. To facilitate political change in North Korea and address its serious human rights situation, it is imperative to develop a strategy aimed at specific segments of the population: the ruling elite; the middle class, who are forced to blindly obey the regime; and the lower class, which Kim Jong-un ignores.

To realize these objectives, we need a massive information campaign to send information into North Korea about what is happening in South Korea and the world; about freedom, human rights, and the superiority of democracies; and about reform and opening. This can be via radio broadcasts, print media, movies, music, and other means. It is important that the North Korean people, including soldiers, develop an accurate understanding of freedom and democracy.

By doing so, we can empower the North Korean people by enabling them to clearly recognize the repressive nature of the Kim Jong-un regime and become the driving force of opening and reform, which will lead to unification under a liberal democratic form of government. There is a surging demand for information among the North Korean people and North Korean soldiers.

To the key ruling elite of North Korea, we need to disseminate information about high-ranking North Korean officials, possible succession scenarios after Kim Jong-un, South Korea’s policy toward North Korea, and how this policy is being implemented.

To the leadership of the Korean People’s Army, we specifically need to send in information about the strength of the U.S.-ROK alliance, President Yoon’s recent state visit to Washington, the nature and objectives of the Kim regime, the capabilities of the ROK military, and the ROK’s military strategy.

To the North Korean population, including the youth, it would be valuable to disseminate Korean cultural content and American movies (such as action and martial arts movies), games, the Bible and other religious materials (including print materials), and documentaries on human rights.


In light of growing international interest in and action on North Korea’s human rights situation, it is becoming increasingly critical for the Yoon administration to pursue a North Korean human rights policy.

To raise the profile of North Korean human rights issues on the international stage and facilitate political change in North Korea, the Yoon administration must closely cooperate with NGOs led by North Korean escapees. This is an urgent priority, just as much as the nuclear issue.

Many escapee-led organizations have long dedicated themselves to bringing freedom to North Korea, with an emphasis on human rights. These organizations have the capacity to be a strategic asset for the Yoon administration, which has proclaimed a principled approach to North Korean policy.

The General Association of North Korean Human Rights Organizations, a coalition of 23 organizations based in South Korea, is carrying out a wide range of activities for the cause of human rights and democracy in North Korea.

Escapee-led organizations which many of you know well, including the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea, Free North Korea Radio, Free North Korea Movement Alliance, North Korea Strategy Center, and North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, are preparing for a new leap forward after enduring a hostile political atmosphere under the previous administration.

Mr. Kim Seong-min, the founder of the General Association of North Korean Human Rights Organizations and the leader of Free North Korea Radio, stresses that “North Korean escapees have a responsibility to fight for the North Korean people’s right to know, which is crucial for North Korea’s democratization and the unification of the Korean Peninsula as a free and open country.”

Park Sang-hak, Heo Kwang-il, Kim Heung-kwang, and Jang Se-yool, who are part of the General Association of North Korean Human Rights Organizations, sent hundreds of thousands of leaflets and 5,000 USBs to the North via balloons on April 12. This was in direct opposition to the so-called “Anti-Leaflet Law,” an unjust law that was passed under the Moon Jae-in administration. 

Kim Seong-min and other leaders in the escapee community have all said that Suzanne Scholte’s Defense Forum Foundation provided invaluable support when the Moon administration harshly suppressed the activities of North Korean escapees. They have also said that the sending of leaflet balloons these past few years would not have been possible without the support of Ms. Suzanne Scholte’s NKFC and individual American citizens who were driven by a sense of justice.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to Ms. Suzanne Scholte, whom many escapees regard as the godmother of the North Korean human rights movement. 

I would also like to express my gratitude and respect for all American citizens who have lent their support to the work of North Korean escapees in our struggle for freedom and democracy in North Korea.

Thank you very much for your attention.

January 30, 2023

Remembering Otto Warmbier

By Robert Collins

January 30, 2023

Just before Christmas 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the “Otto Warmbier Countering North Korean Censorship and Surveillance Act.” The law “authorizes $10 million annually for the next five years to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state.”

Otto was imprisoned and tortured by the Kim regime for reasons that seem petty to almost all of us, but were taken exceedingly seriously by the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) and the Ministry of State Security (MSS). Otto died days after being returned to the United States to meet his family, unable to talk due to the torture that the North Korean regime inflicted on him.

The MSS took Otto into custody after he reportedly took down a propaganda poster in the hotel he was staying at. This seems like a minor infraction to us in the West. However, if the poster had the name of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, or Kim Jong-un on it, this act would be regarded as the worst of all crimes in North Korea—even worse than first-degree murder. This is not only law in North Korea, but most importantly, it is the firm policy of the KWP. Historically, North Koreans have been executed immediately for such an offense.

Any North Korean court official, security officer, or KWP member who fails to respond in the most brutal manner toward an offense against the Supreme Leader would be immediately imprisoned, along with their family members. It is hard to imagine that any government would punish its security personnel for failing to be brutal enough, but this is a fact of political life under the Kim family regime.

Otto had no way of knowing this. His youthful innocence resulted in him being detained by the ye-sim-gwa (pre-trial examination section) of the MSS. These interrogators are notorious for inflicting extremely harsh torture on the accused to extract confessions. There have been plenty of reports about detainees dying during interrogations.

North Korea’s courts, which are driven by party policy and not the rule of law, then issue a sentence based on forced confessions. Detainees are then sent to another detention facility, where they continue to face torture by the guards. The most extreme of these facilities are the Kim regime’s kwan-li-so political prison camps. Testimony on the horrific torture inflicted upon political prison camp detainees is beyond abundant.

Why the torture? In 2005, then-Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il directed security and prison officials to treat those incarcerated in political prison camps and related facilities as “poisonous grass.” He urged those that dealt with the incarcerated to root out the “poisonous grass” to “defend the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Supreme Leader directives are regarded as superior to the law in North Korea. They must be immediately and strictly implemented without hesitation. In other words, those who work in the ye-sim-gwa or the detention facilities must prove themselves loyal to Supreme Leader directives. How so?

Unlike any other country in the world, every North Korean, beginning at the age of nine and until they die, must conduct a public self-evaluation of their adherence to the directives of the Supreme Leaders—Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un—and how their performance falls short of these directives. They must criticize themselves, never compliment themselves. This is referred to as saenghwal chonghwa—lifestyle self-critique. The self-critique is followed by criticism from others.

This is done at least weekly, usually on Saturdays. Records of these self-critiques are kept by the organizational secretary of the KWP committee, which is embedded in every entity in North Korea—party, government, military, economic, or social. These records are transmitted to the all-powerful KWP Organization and Guidance Department (OGD). The OGD assigns a political action officer to manage every organization or regional area, including detention facilities.

There is an OGD political action officer or team of political action officers that monitor the ye-sim-gwa and detention facilities. These officers prepare reports for the Supreme Leader when deemed necessary. Considering how visible Otto’s trial was, it is difficult to believe that the North Korean leadership was not aware of exactly how he was being treated.

How does all of this inform our understanding of what happened to Otto? The interrogators in the ye-sim-gwa and Otto’s incarcerators would have had to admit their inadequate ill-treatment of Otto during self-critique sessions. Their fellow torturers and incarcerators would have had to complain that the official undergoing self-critique was not being brutal enough toward Otto. The brutal treatment of Otto was likely far more severe than that suffered by incarcerated North Koreans.

Many who are incarcerated in North Korea are forced to admit to fabricated charges or testify to some other fiction. Otto was also shown publicly apologizing in court. However, there is no evidence of subsequent cooperation with his torturers. Indeed, it is evident he did not cooperate any further. The North Korean regime would have made it public otherwise. Otto appears to have successfully resisted in a heroic manner, and we should remember him for that.

January 26, 2023

The UN COI at 10 Years: Strategic Priorities & Considerations

By Michael Kirby, former Chair of the UN COI on Human Rights in the DPRK

January 26, 2023

Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the report issued by the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Discussions have begun in Seoul, Washington D.C., and other capitals about the steps that might be taken to commemorate and reflect upon this milestone. The goal of these efforts would be to revive knowledge about the COI report and its detailed recommendations, and to rekindle a commitment to remedial action by the international community.

With this in mind, I am pleased to offer a non-exhaustive list of follow-up initiatives, together with guidance that might be taken to mark this 10th anniversary (hereafter “COI+10”).


From 2013 to 2014, I held the UN mandate of Chair of the COI on Human Rights in the DPRK, acting always with the participation of the other members of the Commission, Mr. Marzuki Darusman and Ms. Sonja Biserko. Our mandate was effectively completed when we delivered our report to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on 7 February 2014, or possibly after we followed up with the delivery of the report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly (GA) in the fall of 2014. On 22 December 2014, we attended the meeting of the UN Security Council, to which the GA had transmitted the COI report, together with expressions of its concern and recommendations.

Since the mandate of the COI has concluded, its members have no current authority to speak or act for the UN. Although individual members of the former COI have been invited by interested audiences to share their reflections on many occasions since 2014—especially in Seoul, Washington D.C., Tokyo, and London—they have always made it clear, as I do now, that their mandate for the UN has concluded. This role belongs to successors appointed by the United Nations, acting through its relevant agencies, including the HRC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The mandate holder of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK plays an especially important role. This is presently Professor Elizabeth Salmón, who was appointed to replace Tomás Ojea Quintana in that office last year.

It will therefore be important that any follow-up action on the COI taken by member states or their agencies or individuals should always include full notification to, and cooperation with, the Special Rapporteur. In organising any hearings or events (actual or virtual), it will be important to inform the Special Rapporteur to ascertain any views she may wish to express, and to comply as far as possible with scheduling that would facilitate, where so decided, her participation in any follow-up events.


Many believe that a useful way to mark the 10th anniversary of the COI would be to keep in mind (and try to coincide with) significant dates in the history of the COI, and possibly also at the venue of important earlier events. These dates include:

  • 21 March 2013: Resolution of the Human Rights Council at its 22nd session in Geneva to establish the COI on Human Rights in the DPRK. This was done by HRC Resolution 22/13, mandating the body to investigate the “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the DPRK, with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular for violations that may amount to crimes against humanity’’ (A/HRC/RES/23/13). The resolution to establish a COI was taken without a vote.

  • 7 May 2013: Appointment of the members of the COI by the then-President of the HRC, Ambassador Remigiusz Achilles Henczel of Poland. The appointments announced to the HRC were Michael Kirby of Australia (Chair), Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia (then-Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights, who recommended the creation of a COI), and Sonja Biserko of Serbia (human rights expert and subsequently the holder of a mandate of a follow-up UN expert group).

  • 1 July 2013: First meeting of the COI at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, when the members of the COI established the methodology of transparency and openness that was to be adopted in the discharge of their mandate. This novel methodology was adopted unanimously by the COI and observed throughout the discharge of its mandate.

  • 20 August 2013: Commencement of the COI’s public hearings and consultations at Yonsei University in Seoul, Republic of Korea (ROK).

  • 29 August 2013: Public hearings and consultations at the UN University in Tokyo, Japan.

  • 23 October 2013: Public hearings and consultations in London, UK.

  • 30–31 October 2013: Public hearings and consultations in Washington D.C.

  • 1 December 2013: Commencement of deliberations of the COI at Palais Wilson, followed by approval of the draft report and arrangements for follow-up.

  • 17 February 2014: First official publication of the COI report (UN Doc. A/HRC/25/63 and detailed findings, A/HRC/ 25/CRP.1). A press conference was held the same day at Palais des Nations, Geneva.

  • 17 March 2014: Formal presentation of the report by the COI Chair to the HRC plenary session, followed by questions, comments, and remarks.

  • 30 March 2014: Transmission of the COI report by the HRC to the UN General Assembly with strong endorsement (Vote: 30 pro; 6 contra; 9 abstain). This HRC resolution called for the report’s transmission to the GA, and by the GA to the Security Council (A/HRC/RES/25/25).

  • 17 April 2014: Arria-formula meeting at UN headquarters in New York of Security Council members—and by other states as observers—to receive the COI report. The meeting was not attended by the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation, with apologies conveyed by the latter.

  • 18 November 2014: After many months of deliberation by the GA Third Committee in New York, a Cuban amendment supporting the DPRK was defeated. The GA Third Committee then endorsed the COI report with another strong vote, followed by a GA plenary vote on December 18 (Vote: 116 pro; 20 contra; 53 abstain). As recommended by the COI, exceptionally, the GA transmitted the COI report to the Security Council (A/RES/69/188).

  • 5 December 2014: Letter initiated by the Ambassadors of France, United States and Australia (then a non-permanent member of the Security Council) to the President of the Security Council (Chad), signed by 10 Council members, for a procedural resolution to place human rights in the DPRK on the Security Council’s agenda. For a procedural resolution to be adopted by the Security Council, an affirmative vote of nine of its members is required.

  • 22 December 2014: UN Security Council adopted the procedural motion put forward by the 10 states, which was read out by Australia. The People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation challenged the contention that the proposed resolution was procedural, but ultimately it was so decided, with 11 states in favour (Vote: 11 pro – Argentina, Australia, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, ROK, and Rwanda together with three permanent member states – France, United Kingdom, and United States; 2 contra – China, Russia; 2 abstain – Nigeria, Chad). The COI report was thus placed on the Security Council’s agenda. Thereafter, the human rights situation in North Korea was raised under the agenda item added by this procedural vote.


The United Nations and its various organs and agencies must be an obvious focus of the consultations surrounding the COI’s 10th anniversary. The problem of Korea preceded the formal establishment of the UN in 1945. As the COI report indicated, the origins of the partition of the Korean Peninsula may be found in the meeting of the Allied Powers at the Cairo Conference in 1943 (COI Report, para. 95). They agreed that, after the defeat of Japan, the colonial power, the independence of Korea would be achieved “in due course.”

Thus began, in 1946, the division of Korea into two zones of control: the United States in the south, and the Soviet Union north of the 38th parallel. This was a pragmatic decision, intended to be of short duration. It was not consistent with the requirements of the UN Charter of 1945, which envisaged the right of “self-determination” for those who had been under colonial rule. The Korean people have never decided for themselves in favour of partition. Exercise of the right of self-determination is the overriding obligation of the UN and the right of the Korean people.

As the effective cause of the division of Korea, the United States of America and the Russian Federation, as successor to the USSR, have a primary, continuing, unfulfilled obligation. So does the United Nations itself. It is therefore proper that, in consultation, where possible with the post-war Korean states, the United States should play an important role in assisting the Korean people to exercise their fundamental human rights, and the right of peoples to self-determination. This contextual theme should inform the discussions surrounding the COI’s 10th anniversary.

It also explains why the two Korean states, intended to be temporary, have an obligation of their own to promote and achieve the self-determination of the Korean people, so far denied. The ROK cooperated fully with the COI. However, despite repeated efforts to make contact and to secure entry and cooperation, the DPRK has so far declined to cooperate either with the UN agencies concerned with human rights, the COI, or with the ROK.

Throughout its work, the COI insisted upon affording opportunities to the DPRK to participate in its work and to provide opportunities for inspection, provision of submissions, and commentary on conclusions. It would be desirable that consultations regarding the post-COI events should likewise insist at every stage on inviting cooperation, entry, inspection, and commentary by the DPRK, just as the COI did in pursuing the neutral interests of the UN and the COI. Renewed efforts at dialogue should be made before, during, and after the 10th anniversary consultations.

In the face of refusal and hostility, there should be the same neutrality as has been displayed by the UN’s organs, agencies, the COI, and the Special Rapporteur. This has an important symbolic value and, even now, may ultimately attract the engagement of the DPRK. Whether it does so or not, it is the correct stance for the UN and all impartial observers to adopt.

Lastly, Japan actively supported the work of the COI throughout its inquiry. It still has a special interest in the issues presented to the world by the DPRK. This includes human rights issues, notably that of the abduction of Japanese nationals from Japan; the abduction of nationals of other countries; the return to Japan of its nationals who were induced to seek a “promised land” in the DPRK and were retained; and the need to account for prisoners of war retained in the DPRK, as well as the remains of abductees and former prisoners; and other problems that overlap with the issue of abduction. The DPRK itself has acknowledged that this issue is not concluded.

The recent international security issue presented by the firing of North Korean missiles over Japanese territory and Japanese waters adds to these further unresolved issues of human rights. The recent re-election of Japan to membership in the UN Security Council also arguably provides another reason for the special involvement of Japan in events surrounding the COI’s 10th anniversary. According to media reports, the bilateral relationship between the ROK and Japan has recently improved. Consideration should be given by the sponsors to involving Japan in the COI+10 anniversary events and their design.


The COI performed its functions during the administration of President Park Geun-hye in the ROK. She extended courtesies to the COI and the assistance of officials. A weakness of the COI’s consultations was the absence of most members of the then-opposition parties and supporters. Since at least the time of President Kim Dae-jung and his “Sunshine Policy,” there have been political differences within the ROK concerning the proper response to reports of human rights abuses in the DPRK, and the investigation and criticism of reported human rights abuses in the north. There have also been differences of opinion about initiatives taken by the ROK for the pursuit of unification, contact with the DPRK, and cooperation with human rights critics, including the COI.

With the election of President Moon Jae-in, the ROK’s policies towards the COI report and responses to evidence of abuses changed. The participation of the ROK in annual UN resolutions condemning the abuse of human rights in the DPRK, in particular ROK co-sponsorship, was suspended. Criminal proceedings (challenged in the Constitutional Court) were brought against citizens of the ROK for releasing balloons containing information critical of the DPRK, including the report of the COI, which is not available in North Korea. The election to succeed President Moon Jae-in led to the election of President Yoon Suk-yeol, who entered office on 10 May 2022.

The Yoon administration appears to have taken several different policy directions from its predecessor. It will be essential that the participants in the 10th anniversary events should be given information, not always available to foreign observers, on the differences already evident in the policies affecting reported human rights abuses in North Korea. Furthermore, it will be important that the omission of the COI to engage effectively with opposition parties and individuals in the ROK should not be repeated.

Without intruding into partisan political issues, it will be the responsibility of public officials to alert overseas participants about any changes in policy towards the COI report; human rights investigations; participation in UN investigations; and responses to activities designed to inform citizens in the DPRK about relevant UN activities, especially the report of the COI and its follow-up. As we mark COI+10, it would be desirable for appropriate experts to give information to participants about the availability of access to international news, including UN investigations of human rights abuses.


Apart from the possible weakness in the COI’s consultation with diverse civil society organisations, resulting from limited time and impartial reliance on official sources, it is also essential for relevant actors to consult more widely with the fullest possible range of civil society organisations, reflecting divergent points of view.

Although some consultation was held with “defectors” (also referred to as escapees or refugees), it would be desirable that appropriate new consultations should be arranged with a larger number of civil society organisations, in general, and organisations of defectors, in particular. Although the number of such entrants into the ROK from the DPRK has diminished, due partly to the impact of COVID restrictions, such persons are vital sources of information on the human rights abuses that drove them to depart from the DPRK.

Leading members of this community (including some who have been elected to the ROK National Assembly) should be sought out and invited to offer their perspectives to the COI+10 consultations, particularly on any changes that have occurred in the situation of human rights in the DPRK over the past 10 years.


The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) will occur on 10 December 2023. The organisation of COI+10 should emphasize this anniversary and its relevance to following up the essential criterion of the COI's critique of abuses of human rights in the DPRK. That critique was grounded in the principles of the UN Charter (with its insistence on universal human rights) and of the UDHR, which gives expression to the content of such rights, as later elaborated by several UN human rights treaties. The DPRK was, and still is, a party to some of these treaties.

Although some criticism of UN organs and agencies is commonly based on alleged Western influence over the contemporary content of human rights, the UN Charter and UDHR are universal statements that apply to all member states, nations, peoples, and individuals. It would be desirable that COI+10 should rebut the suggestions of regional or national exceptionalism. The anniversary of the UDHR affords the international community an opportunity to re-assert its commitment to these universal principles.

It would be desirable for the responses of the DPRK to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), conducted by the HRC, to be analysed and measured against the criticisms expressed in the COI report and subsequently by UN Special Rapporteurs.


When considering the most effective ways to achieve the DPRK’s compliance with universal human rights, it is essential to embrace normal diplomatic techniques for negotiation and securing change. This involves, normally, the avoidance of mere condemnation and noisy criticism. It involves seeking out and identifying issues on the borderline of those held in common with the negotiator concerned.

Although former U.S. President Donald Trump prided himself on reaching a “deal,” his professional career was in real estate. Recent evidence suggests that he was sustained by the fortune secured by his father. Even to those—like myself—who were not opposed to President Trump’s outreach to the DPRK, after years of isolation, his negotiation technique was counterproductive.

It began with his initial speech to the UN General Assembly, threatening the DPRK with destruction “like nothing seen before.’’ He then shifted his approach to a “bromance’’ with Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of the DPRK. He invited Kim first to Singapore and then to Hanoi. He plunged immediately into attempting to secure a deal regarding the most difficult subject for ultimate negotiation: nuclear weapons and long-range missile systems. As these were central to the protection and survival of the Kim family regime, the attempt quickly failed. That failure was compounded by the breakdown of the Hanoi summit on the morning of its second day. Whatever opportunity the U.S. president had from his surprising initiative was squandered and apparently wasted.

The normal technique of diplomacy is to start at the outside of a circle of issues, negotiating first those issues, initially less significant, where there may be common ground and where limited agreements might be reached. This can then lead to more comprehensive agreements. Central, extremely difficult, issues are typically left to be addressed in later negotiations, especially if there is a chance of first building mutual respect and negotiating trade-offs.

In its report, the COI was conscious of this diplomatic technique. Although its recommendations certainly included difficult subjects such as undertaking “profound political and institutional reforms without delay to introduce genuine checks and balances upon the powers of the Supreme Leader’’ (COI Report, conclusions, para. 89a), it was accompanied by other recommendations susceptible to agreement. This included

  • measures to ensure gender equality in practice;
  • the right to food without discrimination giving particular attention to the needs of women and vulnerable groups and to providing free and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid;
  • a moratorium on execution of the death penalty;
  • establishment of independent media and allowing citizens to freely access the Internet, social media, international communications, and foreign broadcasts; 
  • abolition of the prohibition on foreign travel;
  • provision of full information to families of persons abducted;
  • ratification of human rights conventions;
  • establishment of a field-based presence with technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and
  • introduction of postal services, restoration of railway and airline services, sporting links, and cultural links (COI Report, conclusions, para. 89).

It would be desirable for COI+10 to have expert advice from diplomats, experienced in difficult international negotiations, to reflect upon how, in practice, success can be achieved where the initial differences between the parties are large and entrenched.


The passage of 10 years has erased much of the impact caused by the COI report at the time of its issue. One of the problems of UN human rights reports is that they are usually not well published or circulated. A UN report will generally sink like a stone before the ink is dry. Real efforts were made by the COI to render its report accessible and readable. The fact that it was preceded by a series of widely publicised public hearings meant that, on publication, it was something of a sensation. It secured much international publicity. It provided detailed practical cases, based on evidence presented at public hearings, thereby identifying and personifying the human rights abuses found. It remains a different model for the writing of UN human rights reports.

Although highly readable, no readily accessible version of the COI report was made available in print form. The electronic version was available online, but relatively little is known against the background of many other UN human rights reports. The 10-year anniversary affords an opportunity to reconsider creatively what can be done to better distribute the knowledge contained in this report. Perhaps if UN human rights reports were published in an improved format, there would be more follow-up. The COI report should be reconsidered for the lessons it provides for UN human rights reports more generally.

The COI report, the annual reports on the DPRK’s human rights record, and other UN human rights reports should not be filed away and forgotten once delivered. There needs to be a regular system for considering their implementation and follow-up. Auditing the performance of mandate holders will also be more effective if there are available and readable reports.


COI+10 affords an appropriate opportunity to review the COI report in the context of the UN’s human rights apparatus more generally. To what extent did the innovations in the procedures of the COI on Human Rights in the DPRK provide models that (a) have been followed in the HRC; or (b) should have been followed with or without variations? Inevitably, the immediate danger presented to the UN and international community by the DPRK’s development of nuclear weapons, the testing of such weapons, the development of further technology, and the risks of proliferation enliven international concern.

Concern about abuses of universal human rights is important, but human rights issues tend to be regarded as endemic and less urgent when it comes to international action. Given the existential danger of nuclear weapons, the case of North Korea continues to provide an urgent reminder of the inadequacy and weakness of current international institutions to protect global peace and security, to uphold universal human rights and existential values, and to achieve justice. This is the basic lesson from the experience of the COI on Human Rights in the DPRK. The present dangers revealed in the COI report and the urgency of the problems disclosed therein have not been matched by enhanced and effective responses by the UN and the international community.


Reflecting on the last 10 years, there are many reasons for pessimism—even despair and alarm. We should use the 10th anniversary of the COI to reflect on whether humanity may take encouragement by reflecting on the alternative. What would have happened if there had been no COI or no UN?

Since there is no immediate prospect of major changes to relevant international institutions, should we derive a measure of optimism about the present dangers to humanity that the world did its best? Does a practical and pragmatic approach support an optimistic perspective—that humanity usually muddles its way to survival and to accountability for crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes? How, if at all, can we build on the experience of the COI on Human Rights in the DPRK to provide enhanced international remedies for grave wrongdoings that comes to light? Or are we doomed to an inescapable failure of the international community to respond quickly enough and effectively enough to the dangers to humanity? And if so, what precisely can we do to enhance human rights, international peace and security, and the attainment of justice?

It would clearly be desirable for a report to be written about the engagements surrounding the 10th anniversary of the COI. This report should be followed by international dialogue and criticism. It should also be presented in an appropriate way to the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the President of the UN HRC, civil society organisations, and national officials and experts.

Those who silently accept the defects in the current response to the existential dangers that humanity faces are themselves part of the problem that threatens the survival of the human species.

Edited for HRNK by Roberta Cohen, HRNK Co-Chair Emeritus