OpEd | Winter Olympics in the South and People in the North

As if the upcoming Olympics in PyeongChang did not put enough of a spotlight on North Korea, the White House took a different approach last week by shining light on the core of North Korea – the people. After an unprecedented reference to JI Seong Ho, founder of NAUH ( Now, Action, and Unity for Human Rights ), during the State of the Union address, President Trump hosted eight North Korean defectors in the Oval Office, listening to their personal accounts of life in North Korea.

Specifically referring to the defectors as “escapees”, President Trump listened to the harrowing stories of imprisonment, torture, and trafficking that North Korean defectors face, each person trying to capture decades of experiences and emotions into a couple minutes. Similar to his reference to NKSC founder Kang Cheol Hwan ‘s life story during his last address before the South Korean National Assembly, the focus on human stories was a stark contrast to the rhetoric about the North Korean regime.

What is the significance of this meeting? What can we hope will come in the North Korean human rights movement?

The human-centric approach that President Trump showed by extending invitations to North Korean defectors is in line with NKSC’s belief that North Koreans are leading change in North Korea. The stories that these defectors share – survival of prison camps, cross-continental journeys to reach freedom, and the continuing efforts to disseminate information through innovative means – are all examples that the North Korean human rights movement is not a stagnant issue. Even today, millions of innocent people still suffer through the worst forms of brutality; the most harrowing of stories may have yet to be heard.

NKSC echoes those who believe that human rights advocacy can be a strategic asset for the U.S. to strengthen its diplomatic powers. Particularly in the absence of a U.S. Ambassador to South Korea and a Special Envoy on North Korean human rights, NKSC believes in providing a platform for North Korean voices accelerates people-powered change in North Korea.

As a defector-led organization, NKSC has witnessed how this platform shapes a movement. Mr. Kang Cheol Hwan ‘s visit to the Oval Office in 2005, the first private meeting between a North Korean defector and a U.S. President in Office, speared a grassroots movement to raise awareness on this very human rights issue. Now, almost a decade and a half later, with more organizations, biographical accounts, and supporters, NKSC hopes that further action can continue to change North Korea.

In a recent interview with Radio Free Asia, Mr. Kang stated that if the North Korean government tries to heighten the military tension during the PyeongChang Olympic games, it would face more strengthened economic sanctions from the international community.

Instead of following its repetitive military aggressions toward the South as in the past decades, North Korea should come forward towards the international community with a peaceful and open attitude to ease the military tension in the Korean Peninsula in the spirit of peace and cooperation of the Olympics this winter.

In 2018, NKSC will continue its relentless efforts and dedication to promote the people-powered change in North Korea through our dissemination of free information with the precious support and interests of the readers of our Newsletter.

NKSC USOpEd | Winter Olympics in the South and People in the North

News | NKSC Is Bringing The Discussion To D.C.

On July 18th, NKSC Seoul President Kang Cheol Hwan, NKSC US CEO Peter Lee, and NKSC Intern Calvin Elison attended three meetings on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and legislative aides from both parties to discuss how Congress can help NKSC’s mission.  With legislative actions under way in both chambers, as well as several issues fresh in the news such as the death of Otto Warmbier and recent nuclear tests, these meetings fall under NKSC’s greater goals to accelerate people powered change in North Korea by providing a platform for North Korean voices.

In the morning, the delegation met with a staffer from Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) office to talk about, among other topics, Senate bill 1118 that would reauthorize the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, as well as add provisions for information dissemination efforts.  These new provisions add congressional support and federal funding for programs that send USBs and other digital storage devices into North Korea to give DPRK citizens access to outside information.

Immediately after, Mr. Kang and company met with Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL).  Rep. Yoho is the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, as well as the main sponsor for the House bill to authorize the North Korean Human Rights Act with similar additions.  Rep. Yoho was excited to discuss the ways in which his committee could aid the cause of North Korean human rights.  Mr. Kang and Rep. Yoho discussed China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees at length, as well as potential solutions to this problem.  As the meeting came to a close, Mr. Lee requested that Rep. Yoho speak at NKSC’s fall conference tentatively scheduled for October 19th in DC, and the Congressman expressed enthusiasm about the idea, schedule permitting.

To close their day on Capitol Hill, Mr. Kang, Mr. Lee and Calvin met with Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and her staffer Jeff Hayter.  Mr. Kang discussed his life with Rep. Gabbard as well as the obstacles that the U.S. government faces in dealing with North Korean human rights abuses, such as China’s economic power and partnership with the DPRK, negotiating through international institutions, and partisanship.

Overall, the meetings were yet another step forward for NKSC in building relationships with congressional offices that directly affect the lives of North Koreans and North Korean refugees.  Reflecting on the day of meetings, Mr. Kang stated, “It is time to take concrete measures and actions for the dissolution of the Kim Jong Un regime beyond the aspect of economic sanctions.”

NKSC USNews | NKSC Is Bringing The Discussion To D.C.

News | Meet NKSC’s New CEO Peter Lee

What would be a quick 15-second elevator pitch about yourself?

Hello!  My name is Peter Lee and I have been involved in human rights in North Korea since 2005 when I first started my career as the Program Officer for Human Rights in North Korea Project at Freedom House, Inc. in Washington, D.C.   Currently, I am practicing law and began to serve as Chief Executive Officer for the North Korea Strategy Center U.S., Inc.  I am so glad that I can actively participate in this history-changing movement for the people of North Korea!

You were involved in the early stages of the North Korean Human Rights movement in 2005. In your opinion, how has the movement grown since then? What has changed?

Back in 2005, the seriousness of human rights situation in North Korea was not publicized enough among even civic groups and international organizations.  Therefore, we had focused on raising public awareness of the human rights crisis in the North and tried to get attention of the world media to widely publicize the human rights situation in North Korea.  Since then, the NKHR Movement has grown dramatically from scratch to even the recent United Nations Commission on Inquiry on the human rights situation in North Korea!  The level of outside world’s understanding of NKHR has risen substantially and the professionalism and research capacity of many NKHR civic groups have grown tremendously.  One more change that I observed is the growing number of young North Korean defector leaders who have received a good education in the Western world.

There are many organizations who work towards improving the human rights conditions of North Korea. How is NKSC different?

Yes, there are many organizations working towards improving the human rights conditions of North Korea.  NKSC is uniquely positioned as a North Korean defector-led organization which is led by the strong leadership of the world-renowned prison camp survivor, Mr. Kang, Cheol Hwan.  His triumphant stories are ever inspiring not only audience of his speech but also our NKSC team.  Additionally, NKSC has established a worldwide network of young activists who care for the people of North Korea. The culture of NKSC is also very dynamic, vibrant and democratic which I am enjoying the most! 

What would you like to see more from NKSC?

I would like to see many future leaders for Korean Peninsula and world human rights fields emerge from their exposure and experiences through NKSC.  Especially, I would like to see internationally diverse human rights activists will grow up from their experiences from both NKSC Korea and NKSC US. 

 What do you envision for the future of the North Korean human rights movement?  In the year 2020, how will North Korea change? In the year 2030?

I would like to say that all people who are interested in the North Korean human rights movement should be a bit patient.  It has taken more than a decade to arrive where we are now in the NKHR movement.  The human rights movement is about people, not political system or economy.  It usually takes such a long time to actually influence people and the human rights environment surrounding them together.  However, I do hope we will see some human rights organization starts working within North Korea in 2020.  In the year 2030?  I don’t know but I definitely know that I want to visit Pyongyang freely by then and enjoy freedom with people of North Korea.  Thank you!


Read the entire article here.


NKSC USNews | Meet NKSC’s New CEO Peter Lee

News | Inside Kim Jong-un’s camps of death: Former North Korean female guard reveals the horrors she saw in secret prisons where thousands face being starved, beaten, raped and butchered

NKSC President Kang Chol Hwan was recently interviewed in an article at the DailyMail regarding his experiences in a North Korean Prison Camp.


This is a satellite image of Camp 12, a fenced-off farm growing corn and peppers near the Chinese border, and was where Lim first began working, aged 17 Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4458844/Thousands-North-Korea-s-prisons-face-butchered.html#ixzz4fxMLCoqh


“Almost all the inmates are locked up following arbitrary arrest, with many having no idea what ‘crime’ they or their relatives have committed. Offences have included leaving dust on a picture of the ‘supreme leader’, holding a religious service and listening to foreign radio.”


Read the entire article here.


NKSC USNews | Inside Kim Jong-un’s camps of death: Former North Korean female guard reveals the horrors she saw in secret prisons where thousands face being starved, beaten, raped and butchered

Article | The State Security Department is in a Risky Situation

Editorial by NKSC President Kang Cheol Hwan

Recently, the State Security Department (SSD) of the North Korean government has become a subject of power struggle. The purported reason for the execution of KIM Won Hong, former Minister of SSD, has been stated as command disobedience. However, the following presents additional circumstances underlying the purging.

The SSD has been established by Kim Jong Il himself and has been directly responsible for sustaining the regime.  No one except the Kim family and some privileged parties of the party organization were able to avoid the scrutiny of the SSD. When the North Korean regime ruthlessly purged those who were stumbling blocks to the regime, the SSD was always present. The fact that Kim Jong Il himself has also served as the deputy director directly demonstrates the powerful status of the SSD, which has become more concentrated in power.

Just before the death of Kim Jong-il, vice-chairman WOO Dong Chuk was on the shortlist for candidates to be the minister of SSD. Woo had been working for the SSD for more than 40 years and was a person who has been trusted by Kim Jong-il’s close aides. However, WOO suffered acute cerebral hemorrhage, and thus, So KIM Won Hong, who was not anywhere in the spotlight, took the head position at SSD.

Kim Won Jong is an “intelligence man” who had been a member of the military, including the training department of the 91st training camp in Pyongyang. As a person with considerable skills and abilities, it is true that he was the right person to organize matters at the start of Kim Jung Un’s regime.  However, in order to prolong his power, Kim Won Hong began to bring important SSD individuals closer to him to private the organization.  Kim won the trust of Kim Jung Un by leading the purging of Jang Sung-taek, despite the opposition from many high executives to earn the trust of Kim Jong Un. After this, Kim Jung Un and his core members tried to eliminate Kim Won Hong, but he was careful enough that he was able to maintain long-term power.

Matters changed last December during a scandal involving the Vice Chairman of a labor group in Ryanggang Province that occurred when Kim Jong Eun and his party visited Hyesan, Ryanggang province.  During this process, Kim Jong Un and his group decided to plot to eliminate Kim Won Hong. In the end, it was the start of this incident where Kim Won Hong allegedly failed to implement Kim Jong Un’s instructions to brutally torture a party executive officer and oversee the process.

If such is the case, it’s questionable why the regime has been silent on executions of eleven party executives and deputies and various other executions.  In the end, Kim Won Hong, who was adamant to survive in the regime through merciless killings, was trying to build an internal power network, but ended up being ruthlessly tortured by the Kim Jung Un forces.

As the SSD’s key deputies have all been executed, the agency seems to have been hit hard.  As much as the loyalty to Kim Jong Un was rewarded with ruthless killings, this seems to be the first signal that the Kim Jong Un system is cracking and near the end. Killing families, including that of Jang Sung Taek, and killing high-ranking officers with machine guns may seem like a short-term tactic to strengthen a regime, but to target the SSD is to shake the pillars that are sustaining the oppressive regime.

It is also a signal that Kim Jong Un and his aides are in danger of becoming an even greater power as they have targeted and started to eliminate the SSD.  SSD executive and lower level employees have a learned a key lesson that ultimate loyalty to Kim Jong Un could end up in execution.  So, in order to protect the system, it is inevitable for them repress the people and to be reluctant to do the things that Kim Jong Un would look negatively on.

As Kim Won Hong and his followers are ruthlessly purged, the possibility of a serious power leakage in North Korea is increasing, and instability of the country is expected to become even greater.

NKSC USArticle | The State Security Department is in a Risky Situation

News | NKSC Reports “Jang Seong-Taek execution” to the International Criminal Court


Seoul, South Korea – February 6, 2017 – North Korea Strategy Center (NKSC), a North Korean human rights NGO, has completed preliminary investigations regarding the 2013 execution of former Vice Chairman of the National Defence Commission of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Jang Seong-Taek.
On February 13, 2017, NKSC representatives including Kang Cheol-Hwan, North Korean political prison camp survivor and author of “Aquariums of Pyongyang,” will visit the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) at the Hague, Netherlands, to submit an official complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor (“OTP”).

The “Jang Seong-Taek execution” – the trial and execution of a man and mass killing of thousands of people who were affiliated with him – is a modern day tragedy in the DPRK.  Jang Seong-Taek was the husband of Former Supreme Leader of DPRK  Kim Jong-Il’s younger sister, and the uncle of the current leader, Kim Jong-Un. Before his execution, Jang’s official position in the DPRK government was the Director of the Ministry of Administration of the Korean Worker’s Party, and Vice Chairman of the National Defence Commission.

On December 13th, 2013, Korean Central Television, the official state TV channel of the DPRK, and the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the DPRK shocked the world by publicizing the trial and execution of Jang Seong-Taek. Testimonies differ on the reasons for his execution.  Undisputed testimony, however, shows that after his execution, thousands of people with business or familial ties to Jang were killed or sent to political prison camps.  These people – including innocent women and children – had not themselves committed any crimes, but were systematically targeted through mass killings.

NKSC interviewed North Korean defectors who have personal knowledge about Jang’s execution, including the former DPRK Deputy Ambassador to the UK and recent high profile defector, Tae Yong Ho.  As these witness statements establish a reasonable basis for crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC, crimes against humanity, NKSC requests that the OTP investigate Jang’s execution for possible prosecution before the ICC.

NKSC representatives will be available in The Hague from Monday, February 13, 2017 through Friday, February 17, 2017 for interviews and meetings.

For more information, please contact Sharon Stratton: sharon.stratton@nksc.us

North Korea Strategy Center is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, with offices in the United States and China.  As a defector-led organization, NKSC believes that North Koreans are leading change in North Korea. We accelerate this people powered change by providing a platform for North Korean voices. Our programs empower North Koreans within the country with access to information, while supporting defectors outside of North Korea with leadership development programs and international support networks.

Read more about the current situation here at UPI.


NKSC USNews | NKSC Reports “Jang Seong-Taek execution” to the International Criminal Court

News | ‘100,000 North Korean Workers Facing Human Rights Violations Overseas’

According to a South Korean government think tank, the number of forced laborers deployed by the DPRK may have gone up, increasing international concern with human rights violations. 

"A North Korean worker pauses during a shift. Chinese managers have reported they prefer North Korean workers because they are 'cheap and obedient.'"| Photo: China Daily Mail via NKNEWS

“A North Korean worker pauses during a shift. Chinese managers have reported they prefer North Korean workers because they are ‘cheap and obedient.'”| Photo: China Daily Mail | Caption via NKNEWS

Forced North Korean laborers in countries such as: China, Russia, Poland, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, are facing serious human rights violations -including 10 hour, six day, work weeks as well as the loss of 90% of their paychecks to the Kim regime.


Read more about the current situation here at UPI.


NKSC USNews | ‘100,000 North Korean Workers Facing Human Rights Violations Overseas’

Q&A With Dr. Jai Poong Ryu, Founder and President of the One Korea Foundation

Dr. Jai Poong Ryu has donated $27,000 to NKSC US and if NKSC US can raise the same amount by the end of 2016, he pledges to donate another $20,000 in 2017! 

How did you come to learn about NKSC US?

I met Mr. Kang Cheol Hwan, the founder of NKSC and Chairman of NKSC US last May in Korea.  He was speaking on a forum and was quite impressive. I didn’t have a chance to speak with him until his last visit to Washington, DC where he spoke at the Johns Hopkins University – School of Advanced International Studies.  I was very fortunate to have run into him again and heard about the work of NKSC US.

What appealed to you about the organization to donate?

I have been working on issues of the Korean peninsula and unification for a long time and through the debates and conversation, I have come to realize that it does not matter what political means will lead to the change of North Korea.  Whether through one method or another, the common denominator is the dissemination of information to the people of North Korea.  No matter what happens before or after unification or changes on the Korean peninsula, this is vital.  It’s something we need to do and there can be no conservative objection or justifiable criticism against dissemination of information into North Korea.

And I feel that now is the time to make a difference in this field.  Earlier this year, Rep. Matt Salmon, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, introduced the Distribution and Promotion of Rights and Knowledge Act for greater access of information to empower the people of North Korea.  I understand that Rep. Salmon is soon retiring and this bill may become an idea that dies out if people don’t push for it to be passed.  We need to have civic society support to raise consciousness about the importance of information dissemination so that this is a priority for Congress and the activist community.

When I met Mr. Kang and Christine Han, I felt that NKSC US is the catalyst that is needed in this movement. These are dedicated people whom I’ve been looking for whose organization is committed to bringing information to the people of North Korea.

What do you believe is important for the North Korean human rights movement?

When you think about human rights, you think of the Bill of Rights, First Amendment rights, no taxation without representation, and concepts like habeas corpus.  But one of the fundamental components of human rights is the freedom to access information that is available. It’s as fundamental as the right to water and air. Without information, what would human beings do? We are information processors. It’s how humanity progresses.  But North Koreans are devoid of such information, which is the grossest violation of human rights.

So, what I want to see in the realm of human rights in public discussion is for the inclusion of the rights to information access.

What would you like to say to other supporters of the movement?

I want my donation to motivate other supporters to contribute and donate. The North Korea Strategy Center has a proven history of constant efforts for the human rights of the North Korean people and I believe the organization has a promising future to make further strides.  There are many young leaders involved, which encourages me, and I would really like to see other members and supporters contribute so that NKSC may grow its operations.

Lastly and most importantly, I want to emphasize the importance of passing Representative Matt Salmon’s (R-AZ) bill, the Distribution and Promotion of Rights and Knowledge Act. I want my donation to fill the gap until the bill is passed, so that NKSC can continue to do important work and sustain its operations. 


NKSC USQ&A With Dr. Jai Poong Ryu, Founder and President of the One Korea Foundation

News | The Star and ‘Information Fracking’ in North Korea

The Star writes about the combined experiences of NKSC US Program Officer Sharon Stratton and Harvard University Researcher Jieun Baek with ‘information fracking’ in North Korea. 

In a recent article from The Star, both the North Korea Strategy Center’s Sharon Stratton and Harvard University’s Jieun Baek discussed the phenomenon of ‘information fracking’ and its role as a key to ‘liberalizing North Korea.’ This article delves into anecdotal evidence of Baek’s experience in the DPRK and their combined belief in grassroots societal and political change.

Read the full article here.


NKSC USNews | The Star and ‘Information Fracking’ in North Korea

News | Wall Street Journal Interview with Mr. Kang Cheol-hwan

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed NKSC President Kang Cheol-hwan regarding the NKSC’s Journalism Academy and information dissemination in North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal spoke with NKSC President Kang Chol-hwan about the spread of information in North Korea and its affects on defectors and citizens still inside. The article also delves further into the NKSC’s defector-lead Journalism Academy and its efforts to train new defectors in journalistic writing to promote North Korean voices on subjects surrounding the DPRK.

Read the full article here.


NKSC USNews | Wall Street Journal Interview with Mr. Kang Cheol-hwan