Press Release — North Korea: HRF Celebrates Overdue South Korean Law Promoting Human Rights

NEW YORK — Today South Korea’s legislature passed the North Korean Human Rights Act.

The new law mandates the promotion of freedom in North Korea by funding North Korean defector and refugee organizations, creating a North Korean human rights foundation, and establishing an archive of human rights violations perpetrated against the North Korean people by the Kim regime. HRF established the Global Coalition for the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2015 to promote the passage of this law.

"This is an astonishing moment. The Republic of Korea has taken its head out of the sand and has finally confronted the cruelty and horror of the North Korean dictatorship. It is a victory for all who support human rights and human dignity,” said HRF chairman Garry Kasparov. “We in the Global Coalition are delighted that the South Korean government will—for the first time ever—finance the defector organizations that send films, e-books, radio broadcasts, and educational materials to the North Korean people."

The North Korean Human Rights Act also establishes a public campaign to raise awareness about North Korea’s human rights violations and takes steps to ensure that South Korean humanitarian aid is not misused by the Kim regime. The goal of establishing the human rights archive, inspired by the post-war German model, is to monitor and document the crimes of the North Korean dictatorship. It is vital to note that no such archive or record has ever existed in South Korea.

“Passing this monumentally-important law sends a categorical signal to Pyongyang that South Korea will no longer appease the crazy antics of the Kim regime. It will also send a needed message to the South Korean people that promoting human rights in North Korea is a legitimate and worthy cause,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen.

The law’s passage comes at a time when the rest of the world unanimously agrees on the extent and gravity of the crimes of the North Korean dictatorship. Earlier today, the U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 to toughen sanctions on the regime. Two weeks ago, the U.S. government also passed new legislation that punishes the regime for human rights violations. This follows a U.N. General Assembly resolution that urged the U.N. Security Council to refer Kim Jong-un to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. In recent years, the American, Canadian, European, and Japanese governments had taken steps to promote human rights in North Korea, but until today the South Korean government had failed to act.

"People inside the North will know about the law's enactment and it will put considerable pressure on the political elite in Pyongyang," said South Korean politician Kim Moon-soo, who first drafted the law in 2005. North Korean defector organizations said the law would give “big momentum” to their efforts to get knowledge into their homeland, where access to foreign news is forbidden. “Ultimately, information and technology will play a key role in the liberation of North Korea,” said venture capitalist Alexander Lloyd, who co-founded HRF’s North Korea program. “It’s a great day for liberty,” he added.

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.

Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. Its North Korea program has resulted in multiple threats of violence emanating from the North Korean government including threats of assassination, bodily harm, and missile attacks on HRF staff, members, and associates.

Contact: Noemi Gonzalo-Bilbao, (212) 246-8486, noemi@hrf.org.

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