10 Year Anniversary of the North Korea Human Rights Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2004

I’m sharing this press release for those who are interested in this message from Mr. Chol Park, Executive Director, Free North Korean Association United States, in honor of the 10 year anniversary of the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act by the US Congress in 2004.
Free North Korean Association United States (FNKAUS) is an organization representing the 171 North Korean defectors who have resettled in the United States.
Please direct all media inquiries for Mr. Park and FNKAUS to Henry Song at 202-341-6767 or songajee@gmail.com

Regarding the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act, 10 years later


Today, October 18th marks the 10th anniversary of the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA), by the United States Congress.


The members of the Free North Korean Association United States (FNKAUS) would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to the US government for its continued interest in the human rights situation of North Korea, for passing the NKHR Act, and for allowing free North Koreans (defectors) to enter and resettle in the United States.


Of course, the South Korean government recognizes free North Koreans (defectors) as South Korean citizens and has guaranteed the best conditions and benefits for those who have resettled there.

However, it is a sad reality that in South Korea, the country that should be the leader in reunification, a legislation regarding North Korean human rights still has not been passed, despite the international community taking up this issue – for example in the United Nations, where an important side event occurred last month regarding the human rights situation in North Korea, and also with calls for the dictatorship of the North Korean regime to be held accountable at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The North Korea of today went from a Japanese colony to a slave nation ruled over by the Kim family dictatorship.


For the people of North Korea, if one’s father was a farmer, a miner, or laborer, that person is destined to become a farmer, miner, or a laborer; in the neighboring country of China, a socialist country, Chinese citizens can travel anywhere they want to, but only in North Korea are the people living like slaves to the Kim family dictators, unable to travel anywhere without permission, and unable to do anything without permission – this is the reality of North Korea today in the 21st century.

The Kim family dictatorship can also purge and kill anyone who is their ‘slave’ – be they their uncle, aunt, or whoever it may be; all the laws in the world are useless in the face of this slave state power structure.


Countless number of patriots and citizens have given their lives, countless number of meetings have been held, proclamations made, and ‘agreements’ have been discussed, but there is no end in sight regarding the division of South and North Korea, a division that has been ongoing for more than 60 years.


Many experts, scholars, and think-tanks say that the extinction of the North Korean regime will pave the way for reunification, but what is the reason behind the three generations of succession in power, and the continuing existence of the regime?

The most important thing is that those who are closest to the Kim family dictatorship in North Korea and allow the regime to survive and function, these few are the ones who know so very well regarding the reality of the outside world and the international community.


These elites and regime supporters know very well that the democratization and freedom for North Korea as supported by the international community, will lead to reunification, which will ultimate lead to their own demise; these elites and regime supporters know and realize that the only way to maintain their own power and lifestyle and livelihood is to continue aligning with the regime in exploiting and oppressing the people, no matter how young and inexperienced and bumbling the dictator may be.  They will continue to allow the dictator to remain in power, and despite clamoring for reunification, it is only in words, and their actions will never allow for reunification to happen.

Also, another important factor for the regime in North Korea not collapsing is the fact that the propagandizing and brainwashing of the people in idol worship of the dictatorship will continue and become even more strengthened, and interaction with the outside world can be something to only dream about; the eyes and ears of the North Korean people are closed off, since the people cannot even freely listen to radio broadcasts.


What can the deaf and blind do?

The most rational, common-sense way to bring about the collapse of the regime is to surround and encircle North Korea – through the Tumen River, Yalu River, East Sea, Yellow Sea, the DMZ – and send in radios, smartphones, and find ways for and allow Wi-Fi signals to be broadcast into North Korea, thus providing an opportunity for the North Korean citizens to be able to access outside information and find out about the truth.  If this can lead to just a small spark being created in opposition to the Kim family dictatorship, that small spark can grow to be a fearsome, huge fireball or volcano that cannot be put out.


THIS is what the regime fears the most, and right now in North Korea if the regime senses any small spark about to be ignited, they will do whatever it takes to block out and oppress the people.


The North Korean regime has already purchased anti-riot gear and equipment from China in case anything should happen, and a few years ago even banned the movie ‘Rim KokJung’ [a film made in 1987 in North Korea set in the feudal times where the oppressed rise up against the corrupt yangban-class rulers, that was banned starting from 1997 as the conditions in the country deteriorated], and also punished those found to be singing the theme song from the movie, “Arise, Brother”.


This is the reality of North Korea, yet some in the international community have a delusional fantasy regarding the country and go into North Korea for visits, as tourists with tour groups, and for various other reasons, but we as free North Koreans and defectors who were born, and grew up and escaped from North Korea, beseech all

nations, organizations, and private individuals once again regarding this.

Please face the fact that the North Korean regime is currently holding three American citizens as prisoners for political purposes.


Today, as we celebrate in the United States the 10th anniversary of the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act, we implore the ruling and minority parties in the South Korean National Assembly to put down party politics and scheming, and pass a North Korean human rights legislation and thereby proclaim and guarantee the basic human rights of the North Korean people.


We free North Koreans will continue to support and encourage the US as it takes the lead in sending the leadership of the North Korean regime to the International Community Court (ICC), and we also implore all those in the world with a conscience and a sense of justice to do so as well.


Please rise up and help in guaranteeing the most basic human right to the North Korean people.


Cheol Park

Executive Director,

Free North Korean Association United States; and -


Members of the Free North Korean Association United States (FNKAUS), representing the 171 North Korean defectors in America



미국 북한인권법 제정 10주년에 즈음하여


오는 10 18일은 미국에서 북한인권법을 제정한지 10주년이 되는 날이다.


우리 미주자유북한인들은 북한인권문제에 많은 관심을 가져 주시고 북한인권법을 제정하고 자유북한인(탈북인)들이 미국에 입국할수 있도록 많은 노력을 기울여준 미국정부에 감사의 인사를 드린다.


물론 대한민국 역시 자유북한인들을 대한민국 국민으로 인정하고 그들에게 잘 정착해 나갈수 있는 최선의 조건과 혜택을 보장해 주고 있다.


그러나 국제사회가 북한인권문제를 주제로 유엔총회를 가지고 북한의 독재자들은 국제 형사재판소에 회부하는 안건을 논하는 현 마당에앞으로 통일의 주체가 되여야 할 대한민국에서는 아직도 북한 인권법이 통과되지 못하였다는 것은 안타까운 현실이다.


오늘 날의 북한은 일제의 식민지로부터 김씨일가의 노예국가로 완전히 전락해 버렸다.


북한 인민들은 태여날 당시 아버지가 농민이였거나 탄광광산 노동자였으면 자식들도 대를 이어 농민으로탄광광산에서 일하여야 하며옆나라 사회주의 국가인 중국인민들 까지도 세계각국 어디나 가고 싶은 곳 다 갈수 있으나북한인민들만은 김씨가문의 노예로 김씨가문의 허락이 없이는 어디 갈수도그 무엇도 할수없는 것이 21세기 글로벌시대 오늘날 북한의 현실이다.


뿐만 아니라 김씨가문은 자기 노예가 그 누구든 삼촌이든고모부던 죽일수도 살릴수도 있으며 그러한 노예주의 공권력은 이 지구상의 그 어떤 법도 무용지물이다.


남과 북의 통일은 반세기가 훨씬 넘어 60여년의 세월이 지나 온 동안 수많은 애국구국지사들의 목숨을 바쳐가며 많은 조약과 선언회담들을 진행하여 왔지만 아직도 그 끝이 어디인지 보이지 않는다.


한국의 국가 안보 전략연구소북한문제 연구소 등에서 북한의 멸망이 통일의 길이라고 명시하고 있는데 그러면 망할 듯 망할듯하는 북한이 3대로까지 세습을 이어가며 저토록 유지되고 있는 원인은 무엇인가?

가장 중요하게는 김씨가문에 붙어서 북한의 권력을 유지하고 있는 몇 안되는 자들의 국제사회의 현실을 너무나 잘 알고 있다는 것이다.


이 자들은 국제사회의 자유민주주의를 인정하기에 통일이 될 경우 무능력한 자신들이 설자리가 없으며 지금 자기들이 누리고 있는 부와 향수를 지키는 길은 오직적수공권의 인민들을 착취하고 독재자가 아무리 어리고 무능 할지라도 그 자리를 유지할수 있게 만들고 있으며 통일을 말로만 외칠뿐 통일이 절대로 이루어 지지못하게 하는 것이다.


다음으로 북한이 붕괴되지 않고 있는 원인은 수령우상화로 쇠뇌교육을 강화할뿐 외부세계와의 교류는 꿈도 꿀수 없고 라디오하나 들을수 없게 만들어 북한인민들의 눈과 귀를 막은것이다.


귀먹어리소경이 무었을 할수 있겠는가?


북한의 붕괴를 가져올수 있는 가장 합리적인 방법은 두만강압록강,서해 그리고 38즉 북한을 포위하고 북한에 라디오와 스마트폰을 공급하고 무선인터넷(Wi-Fi)이 북한 전지역에 터지도록 하여 그들에게 현실을 알려주고 북한에서 노예주 김씨가문을 반대하는 한점의 불씨만 일으킨다면 그 한점의 불씨는 제거 할수없는 무서운 화산처럼 타오를 것이다.


북한당국이 제일 두려워하는 점도 이 점이며 현재 북한에서는 한점의 불씨가 일어날 요소이면 그 어떤 것을 막론하고 봉쇄 억압을 하고 있다고 한다.


실지로 만일이 경우를 대비하여 중국에서 폭동을 진압할 장비들을 구입하였으며무능한 봉건관료배를 척결하는 봉기를 다룬 북한 영화 “림꺽정을 볼수 없게 DVD를 모조리 회수하였으며 이 영화의 주제가를 부를 경우 엄격히 처벌한다고 한다.


북한의 현실이 이러한데 국제사회의 일부에서는 북한에 대한 환상을 가지고 방문관광 등 여러목적으로 북한여행을 하고 있는데 북한에서 나서 자라온 우리 자유북한인들은 이에 대하여 모든 국가와 단체개인들께 다시한번 부탁의 말씀을 드린다.


북한이 미국인 3명을 정치적목적으로 억류하고 있는 현실을 직시하여 주시기를.


미국에서 북한인권법 제정 10주년이 된 오늘날 한국의 여,야당들에서는 당리당약을 내려 놓고 북한인권법을 제정하여 한민족 북한인민들이 기본적인 인권법을 보장하는데 앞장에 서주기를 바란다.


오늘날 미국이 북한지도부를 국제형사재판소에 제소하는 안건에 전 세계에 있는 자유북한인들은 더 없는 지지와 성원을 보내며 전 세계의 정의와 양심을 가진 모든 분들께 호소한다.


북한인민들의 가장 기초적인 인권을 보장하는데 한사람같이 나서 달라.


미주자유북한인 연합회 일동





Join “Save North Korea Refugees Day” MONDAY, Sept 22nd. Washington DC

Suzanne Scholte and her North Korea Freedom Coalition are leading up Save North Korea Refugees Day this Monday. If you’re in DC, please consider showing up to this event.  I’m copy/pasting her press release below.



North Korean Escapees, Activists Call for Action to Save Refugees: Events at State Department, Chinatown

WHEN: Monday, September 22, 2014

Press Conference 4 pm at US State Department — across from C Street entrance

Dramatic Demonstration at 5 pm Chinatown — US-China Friendship Gate (7th & H NW)

(Washington, D.C.) … Members of the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC), joined by North Korean escapees, will hold a press conference outside the State Department at 4 pm on Monday, September 22, 2014 and stage a demonstration at 5 pm in Chinatown to highlight the increasingly horrific situation facing North Koreans trying to escape to South Korea and other countries.

The dangers facing North Korean refugees has continued to escalate since Kim Jong Eun took power and China has recently stepped up deportations of those trying to help North Koreans making the situation increasingly dire.  Even the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on North Korea decried China’s treatment of refugees when they concluded North Korea was guilty of crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights.

“There is absolutely no reason for China to continue their brutal policy of repatriation,” said NKFC Chairman Suzanne Scholte.  “North Koreans are the only refugees in the world who have an immediate place to go for resettlement as they are recognized as citizens of South Korea, and they have also been safely resettled in the United States and other countries.”

While NKFC has regularly highlighted China’s cruel action, it is also calling for the United States to do more.

Present at both events will be refugees who have resettled here who are deeply grateful to the United States but believe more must be done including Jo Jinhye, who established NKinUSA to help rescue North Koreans.  Jo, who has testified before the UN Commission of Inquiry and the US Congress on the situation, will reveal current information on refugees in immediate peril.

“While China is guilty of horrific treatment of North Koreans, the United States must do more to help,” said Jason West, a spokesman for NKFC who is helping organize the events.  “There are refugees right now who have been held in detention centers in Thailand for months simply because they want to resettle in the US.”

Each year NKFC has marked September 22nd as their annual Save North Korean Refugees Day as September 22nd marks the anniversary of the day in 1981 when China became a signatory to the Refugee Convention, an international agreement it violates every time it forces a North Korean back to North Korea.

The public is invited to participate in support of NKFC’s simultaneous calls for the United States to take more action to save refugees AND for the government of China to end their brutal, inhumane, and horrific treatment of North Korean men, women, and children.  The public can sign their online petitions to President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama to save North Korean refugees.

The North Korea Freedom Coalition is a nonpartisan coalition founded to work for the freedom, human rights, and dignity of the North Korean people.  The Coalition has public member organizations representing millions of people around the world along with many individual members.  The Coalition also has private members that provide humanitarian relief inside North Korea and members in China and other nations that feed, shelter, and rescue North Korean refugees.  For further information, please visit www.nkfreedom.org.

Media inquiries may be directed to Jason West at (301) 660-7009.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.38.46 AM

Screening of Documentary Film “Divided Families” at Harvard University’s Korea Institute [ November 13, 4:30 - 6:00PM ]

The Korea Institute at Harvard University is screening our finished documentary, Divided Families, in November! If you are in Boston, please come for the film screening on November 13, from 4:30-6:00PM.  See below for details. Hope to see you there!


Screening of Documentary Film “Divided Families”

Voice of America’s Coverage on the Korean Edition of “From Dictatorships to Democracy”

Upon it’s public release, Voice of America wrote up an article and broadcast this story directly into North Korea to its listeners. If you can read Korean, check this article out written by Mr. William Kim. If you want the audio file (in Korean) that was broadcast into North Korea today, please email me and I’ll be happy to send it to you.


독재정권의 붕괴 다룬 ‘독재에서 민주주의로’ 한국어판 출간

by 김영권

독재정권 붕괴에 기여한 것으로 알려진 책 ‘독재에서 민주주의로’(From Dictatorship to Democracy)의 작가 진 샤프 박사. (자료사진)독재정권 붕괴에 기여한 것으로 알려진 책 ‘독재에서 민주주의로’(From Dictatorship to Democracy)의 작가 진 샤프 박사. (자료사진)

전세계 여러 독재정권 붕괴에 기여한 것으로 알려진 책 ‘독재에서 민주주의로’(From Dictatorship to Democracy) 의 한국어 번역본이 출간됐습니다. 관계자들은 북한의 민주화를 염원하는 모든 사람들에게 유익한 지침서가 되길 바란다고 말했습니다. 김영권 기자가 취재했습니다.

세르비아 민주화 청년운동 오트포, 우크라이나의 오렌지 혁명을 주도한 포라 학생운동, 미얀마 민주화 운동에서부터 아랍의 장기 독재정권을 무너뜨린 ‘아랍의 봄’까지.

제3세계 민주화 운동가들의 바이블(성경)로 불리는 미국인 진 샤프 박사의 책 ‘독재에서 민주주의로’ 한국어판이 인터넷을 통해 처음으로 출시됐습니다.

샤프 박사가 설립한 알버트 아인슈타인연구소는 지난 11일 40여 개 언어로 번역된 이 책의 한국어판이 완성됐다며, 하버드대학 케네디대학원 산하 벨퍼센터의 북한 전문가인 백지은 연구원이 작업을 주도했다고 밝혔습니다.

아인슈타인연구소의 자밀라 라키브 소장은 12일 ‘VOA’에 이 책이 독재사회의 변화에 미친 파급효과를 볼 때 한국어판 출간에 대한 기대가 크다고 말했습니다.

[녹취: 라키브 소장] “It explains that very clear way…”

‘독재에서 민주주의로’는 독재의 실체를 구체적으로 해부한 뒤 이에 저항하는 매우 명확한 전략과 방법을 제시하기 때문에 북한에도 적용할 것들이 많다는 겁니다.

지난 1993년에 첫 출간된 이 책은 독재정권에 저항하고 권력을 약화시키는 198 개 비폭력 방법들을 구체적으로 소개하고 있습니다.

90여 쪽에 달하는 책에는 조직과 단체를 표현하는 상징물과 색깔, 현수막 준비에서부터 독재정권의 동원과 정치행사 불참, 침묵, 파업, 거리시위에 이르기까지 독재체제에 저항하려는 사람들에게 필요한 구체적인 준비와 방법들이 자세히 담겨 있습니다.

‘CNN’ 방송과 ‘뉴욕타임스’ 신문 등 미국 언론들은 과거 이 책이 소개한 방법이 어떻게 반체제 운동에 적용됐는지 일부 사례들을 소개해 관심을 끌었었습니다.

가령 지난 2004년 우크라이나의 오렌지 혁명은 단체의 깃발과 상징적 색깔을 표출하라는 이 책의 18번째 방법이 적용돼 오렌지색 물결이 혁명을 주도했다는 겁니다. 또 2000년 세르비아의 슬로보단 밀로셰비치 독재정권 저항운동에 등장한 구호와 스티커, 티셔츠, 포스터 등은 7번째 방법인 표어와 풍자만화, 상징물 준비에서 영감을 얻은 것이라고 언론들은 지적했습니다.

미 언론들은 지난 2009년 이란의 반정부 시위와 2011년 시작된 아랍의 봄 등 여러 반정부 시위에서도 이런 방법들이 매우 구체적으로 적용됐다고 소개했습니다.

이 책의 저자인 샤프 박사는 장기 독재정권 붕괴와 민주화에 기여한 공로로 노벨평화상 후보에 두 번이나 오른 바 있습니다.

또 반 세기에 걸쳐 독재정권 붕괴에 관한 30권의 책을 집필한 데 대해 ‘현대 비폭 저항운동의 대부’, ‘혁명가들의 최고의 친구’, ‘독재정권의 악몽’으로 불리고 있습니다.

라키브 소장은 북한의 철저한 폐쇄성, 그리고 정권의 세뇌와 공포정치 때문에 책의 효과가 적을 수 있다는 우려는 다른 나라의 전례로 볼 때 기우일 수 있다고 지적했습니다.

[녹취: 라키브 소장] “We deal with many different countries and activists from many different societies……”

과거 이 책을 접한 많은 운동가들 역시 자신의 나라 상황은 이를 적용할 수 없을 만큼 독특하고 훨씬 참혹하다며 비관했다는 겁니다.

라키브 소장은 그러나 이들은 결국 적용할 수 있는 방법들을 찾아냈고 불가능을 가능으로 만들었다며, 북한도 예외일 수 없다고 강조했습니다.

이 책의 한국어판 출간을 주도한 하버드대 산하 벨퍼센터의 백지은 연구원은 11일 ‘VOA’에 북한의 변화를 꿈꾸는 엘리트 지식인들과 젊은이들이 이 책을 접할 수 있길 기대하고 있다고 말했습니다.

[녹취: 백지은 연구원] “North Korean defectors who used be elite…”

번역본을 먼저 읽은 엘리트 출신 탈북자들의 반응이 매우 좋았기 때문에 한국 내 다양한 탈북자 그룹들을 통해 구체적인 전략이 짜이고, 궁극적으로 북한의 민주화를 염원하는 엘리트들에게 책이 전달되길 바란다는 겁니다.

백 연구원은 USB와 단편영화, 만화책 등으로 만들어 대형 풍선, 육로 등을 통해 북한에 보내는 방안들이 있다며, 이미 구체적인 방안을 추진하는 이들이 있다고 말했습니다.

아인슈타인연구소는 보다 많은 사람들이 이 책을 접하도록 사이버 공간을 통해 무료로 배포하고 있다며, 웹사이트 (http://www.aeinstein.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/FDTD-Korean.pdf)를 통해 누구나 쉽게 다운로드 받을 수 있다고 밝혔습니다.

VOA 뉴스 김영권입니다.

Voice of America

From Dictatorship to Democracy by Dr. Gene Sharp [Free Korean edition now available!]

I’ve been working on this project for some time now, and cannot emphasize enough how inspirational and effective the Albert Einstein Institute is. If you are interested, please download the Korean version of this, or the English version of this important book on the website below!

North Korea Hackathon in Silicon Valley (Behind the Scenes!)


This past weekend, a North Korea Hackathon took place in Silicon Valley, hopefully the first of many. The New York City-based Human Rights Foundation organized this event in San Francisco that drew a diverse crowd of about one hundred people, including engineers, college students, investors, journalists, and four prominent North Korean defectors. People who do excellent research, writing, and journalism like Martyn Williams, Chad O’Carroll, and Kurt Achin were there. The goal of this weekend was to tap into the Silicon Valley’s brains and skills to come up with creative solutions to send foreign media and information into North Korea, the most intentionally isolated regime in the world. As many of you know, accessing foreign information is highly dangerous for North Korean people, yet many risk their lives to secretly watch dvds, read foreign news, and listen to radio programs in order to desperately learn more about their world outside North Korea. You could read more about the happenings throughout the hackathon in real journal articles that I’ll share below, so I’ll refrain from describing much of the event’s official agenda in this blog post.

HACKATHON: DAY ZERO. I flew in on Friday, the day before the hackathon to meet up with Mr. Kim Heung Kwang, the executive director of North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (click here for English version) and the other three North Korean defectors who were all flying in from Seoul. The Wikimedia Foundation graciously hosted us and the Human Rights Foundation organizers for a wonderful dinner at their headquarters office in San Francisco to learn more about the individuals’ work centered on sending information into North Korea against the regime’s will. There was a lot of conversation around how the Korean wikipedia is already being sent into North Korea onto USB thumb drives, and more side discussions about how more individuals and organizations can get add to this effort.

The four North Korean guests and myself at Wikimedia, Wikipedia's foundation

The four North Korean guests and myself at Wikimedia, Wikipedia’s foundation

I think that the delicious southern-inspired meal was too heavy for the defectors, so after the Wikimedia dinner, the North Korean guests, two bilingual friends, and I walked into Chinatown to eat Chinese food and have some Japanese and Chinese beer.  Interspersed with lots of laughter, Mr. Park shared stories about how he got into a lot of scuffles in Seoul for the work that he does.

HACKATHON: DAY ONE. Jetlagged, the four North Koreans and their facilitators, including myself, piled into cabs to head over to the hackathon venue where we had bagels, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast. “I don’t know how you Americans could eat bread all day long. I need rice!” one North Korean guest said.  The other three laughed, and said that he brought microwaveable rice and kim-chi, a Korean staple side dish, with him in his luggage from Seoul. Another said, ‘Don’t you bring that kim-chi out here…the Americans will run away from you if you bring that out! Instead, hand it over to me. I’ll eat it!”

Each of the four gave brief introductions about their individual defections, background stories, and their respective NGOs’ work before the eight hack teams broke out to start brainstorming, coding, and creating their tech solutions to help bring information into North Korea.

[Left] Henry Song, an incredible Korean-American translating for Mr. Kim. [Right] Mr. Kim Heung Kwang (Executive Director of North Korea Intellectual Solidarity) introducing himself.

[Left] Henry Song, an incredible Korean-American translating for Mr. Kim.
[Right] Mr. Kim Heung Kwang (Executive Director of North Korea Intellectual Solidarity) introducing himself.

Kim Heung Kwang is a North Korean defector and a former professor at Pyongyang Computer Technology University. He graduated from the Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, where he majored in data processing. Kim pursued graduate  studies at Hamheung Computer College, where he studied operating systems, hardware technology and network theory. He spent 19 years training students for the North Korean regime’s cyberwarfare units. Kim was also in charge of analyzing seized contraband South Korean television dramas and foreign books, until he was caught renting some of the classified loot to a friend. He escaped North Korea in 2003 through China and settled in Seoul. In 2008, he founded the North Korea Intellectuals Society, a group of high-level defectors that promotes freedom, democracy, and human rights for North Korea. As the executive director of NKIS, Kim conducts research on unification, formulates and critiques ideas on how to foster North Korean civil society, and cultivates the skills of North Korean defector intellectuals.

Ms. Yeon-Mi Park speaking about how watching an illegal copy of "The Titanic" convinced her to defect from North Korea

Ms. Yeon-Mi Park speaking about how watching an illegal copy of “The Titanic” convinced her to defect from North Korea

Park Yeonmi is a North Korean refugee and an expert on the country’s black market economy. As a child, Park lived as part of North Korea’s elite until the regime punished her father and banished him and his family to the northern part of the country, where poverty, starvation, and “disappearances” became a part of everyday life. Park and her family escaped North Korea through China and Mongolia in 2007. She is currently a media fellow at Freedom Factory, a think tank based in Seoul, and studies at Dongguk University. She co-hosts the “Casey and Yeon Mi Show,’’ a podcast about North Korean issues, and is featured on “Now On My Way to Meet You,” a TV show in which North Korean women discuss their past and present lives.

Choi Song Il is a North Korean refugee who worked as a dentist before escaping the country. Choi lived in China for two years until he was caught and repatriated back to North Korea, where he was incarcerated in a detention facility for six months. On his second attempt to escape, Choi successfully arrived in South Korea. He obtained an undergraduate degree from Yonsei University in management and worked in the private sector for five years. Determined to work for the rights of North Koreans, Choi joined the North Korea Strategy Center (NKSC) in 2010. Choi has conducted many research projects regarding the North Korean people’s change of consciousness and oversees NKSC’s North Korean field operations and media dissemination projects. He recently obtained a master’s degree in political science with a special focus on North Korea.

Mr. Choi, speaking on behalf of the North Korea Strategy Center in Seoul. He was a dentist in North Korea

Mr. Choi, speaking on behalf of the North Korea Strategy Center in Seoul. He was a dentist in North Korea

Mr. Park Sang-Hak, aka "Enemy Zero" according to the North Korean government. He leads the Fighters for Free North Korea

Mr. Park Sang-Hak, aka “Enemy Zero” according to the North Korean government. He leads the Fighters for Free North Korea

Park Sang Hak is a North Korean defector and democracy activist. Park worked in a propaganda unit of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League until 1999, when his father, a spy for the government, defected with his family to South Korea. Since then, Park has worked for the democratization of his homeland. He is the chairman of Fighters for a Free North Korea, an organization that uses helium-nitrogen balloons to float human rights and pro-democracy literature, DVDs, USB drives, and transistor radios from South Korea into North Korea. Park’s educational efforts constitute such a serious threat to the Kim dictatorship’s mass brainwashing system that he is known as “enemy zero”. As a result, Park was the target of an assassination attempt in 2011 at the hands of a North Korean spy using poisoned needles.

Each of the eight teams broke into groups and sat around this warehouse space and spewed ideas about how they could get information in and out of the country. Ideas ranged from super low tech (e.g. slingshots to get USBs from China into North Korea across the Tumen River) to much more high tech ideas that used satellite networks to enable intra-country communication among North Koreans. My North Korean friends kept sharing their surprise over how so many non-ethnic Korean Americans were so passionate about coming up with solutions help inform North Koreans about the outside world. This hackathon scene, where people were scrambling to come up with ideas to help North Koreans,would never happen in South Korea, they said.

Mr. Kim speaking with one of the hackathon teams on Day 1 of the hackathon

Mr. Kim speaking with one of the hackathon teams on Day 1 of the hackathon

HACKATHON: DAY TWO.  We spent the morning speaking to journalists and chatting about different ideas over delicious Ritual coffee in the hackathon space. In the early afternoon, each of the eight teams presented their ideas for four minutes each and answered questions for two minutes each. You could see the winning team “Team SkyLife” present their idea in the photo below.


“The winners were Team Skylife, made up of Matthew Lee, a former Google employee now working on a stealth start-up in San Francisco, and Justice and Madison Suh, a 17-year-old brother-sister pair who had flown from Virginia to compete in the event. Their winning concept involved the use of Luneberg lens research to develop flat, iPad-sized satellite receivers that could be snuck into North Korea through smuggling routes on the Chinese border, or floated into the country via hydrogen balloons from South Korea. These portable, easily concealable devices would hook into the pre-existing coaxial and USB technology commonly found in North Korea and pick up signals from Skylife, a South Korean broadcaster that sends more than 200 channels of programming to customers in China. The panel of judges – consisting of North Korean defectors, Silicon Valley tech executives, and HRF senior staff – were impressed by the potential impact the concept could have on information flow into the world’s most closed society.” [HRF]

The judges panel

The judges panel (from left to right):Yeonmi Park, Park Sang-Hak, Kim Heung-Kwang, Sarah Wasserman (HRF), Alex Loyd (angel investor for “Disrupt NK” campaign”, and Henry Song in the back

After the event ended, the different teams continued to develop their ideas in order to possibly implement them with the help of the North Koreans’ contacts and NGOs. Afterwards, the North Korean guests and I went to a dinner with the San Francisco chapter of South Korea’s National Reunification Advisory Council, who asked a lot of questions to our guests about their lives and experiences from defection to their assimilation process in South Korea.  Exhausted, the four guests, Henry Song, and I went to Twin Peaks close to midnight to try to catch a glimpse of the city through the fog. Though we couldn’t see past 5 feet in front of us, it was nice to “drink the clouds” as Mr. Kim said.

민주평통 탈북자  단체사진 (3)

POST HACKATHON: A few of the guests stayed for the day after the hackathon, so we went sightseeing. Alex Gladstein, an associate at HRF, graciously drove us around San Francisco. It was so nice to be back in the city I lived in for two years!  Wael Ghonim, the Googler who was credited to having a significant impact on the Egyption Revolution in 2011, hosted us along with his two colleagues Osman and Karim, for lunch at a *delicious* Middle Eastern restaurant in Sunnyvale. Over lamb and yogurt, we talked about shadow internet and its various applications. After having baklava to finish our meal, our team drove up to Stanford to check out its beautiful campus. We continued to drive north around Corona Heights, Hayes valley (my old neighrbood!), and had coffee, beer, and wine to enjoy the afternoon.

Yeon-Mi Park at my old office!

Yeon-Mi Park !

I look them to where I used to work and took a ton of photos! I'm including just a few here

I look them to where I used to work and took a ton of photos! I’m including just a few here

A selfie with our North Korean guests and Alex Gladstein, an associate at the Human Rights Foundation, at the top of

A selfie with our North Korean guests and Alex Gladstein, an associate at the Human Rights Foundation, at the top of

Spending four full days with old and new friends from North Korea centered on the idea to bring information into North Korea was both heartbreaking and inspiring.  If you are interested in helping any of these organizations, please let me know!

See below for news articles about the hackathon:


Silicon Valley Takes on North Korea

the guardian logo

Hackers design clandestine aerials to help North Koreans watch banned TV


Can Hackers Help Save North Korea?

Idea to develop flat TV antennas wins “Hack North Korea” competition


How Silicon Valley wants to hack North Korea

Gizmodo logo

Plan for Secret Satellite Receivers Wins Hackathon to Help North Korea


Hack North Korea: Silicon Valley Wants To Bring Information To Pariah State

“북한을 해킹하라” – Hack North Korea

Human Rights Foundation
2014. 8.6  샌프란시스코
북한을  해킹하라”  – Hack North Korea

Park Sang Hak

8월 2일과 3일 양일간 미국 뉴욕의 인권재단( Human Rights Foundation, HRF)은  ‘북한을 해킹하라’ 라는 컨퍼런스 행사를 주최하였다. 본 회의를 통해 샌프란시스코의 다양한 IT 기술진, 엔지니어들과  탈북자들이 한자리에 모여 전세계에서 가장 심한 정보통제 및 단절을 겪고 있는 북한주민들 에게 어떻게 미디어를 통해 다가갈 것인지에 대한 다각도의 토론과 논의가 펼쳐졌다.

재단의 사무총장 사라 와서만 (Sarah Wasserman) 은 “최근 몇 년간 용기있는 탈북자들을 통해 간헐적으로 북한땅에도 북한정권이 통제하고 있는 세상에 대한 소식들과 정보가 전달 되어 지고 있다” 면서,  “이런 정보유입을 통해 북 정권 붕괴의 초석이 마련되어 지고 있으나, 국제사회의 도움 없이 탈북자 개개인이 신상의 위험을 무릎 쓰고 각자 노력 하는 상황에 대해 안타깝게 생각” 하였기에 실리콘 밸리를 중심으로 활동하는 정보기술 전문가들을 초청해 좀더 심도 있고 체계적인 정보유입을 통한 북한의 변화를 도모하는 자리를 마련했다고 밝혔다.

‘북한을 해킹하라’ 에는 여러 비즈니스 대표들과 방송계, 그리고 인권단체들도 함께 하였으며, 행사에서 발제 된 여러 아이디어들과 방안들은 한국에서 활발히 활동하고 있는 탈북자 활동가 그룹을 중심으로 적용될 예정이다.  본 회의에서는 박상학, 박연미, 김흥광 등의 탈북자들이 초청되었으며 이들을 통해 현 북한 정보통제 상황 및 현재 이루어 지고 있는 DVD, USB 및 대북풍선 및 단파 라디오 프로그램을 통한  정보 유입 방식 등에 관한 브리핑을 받고, 이어 미 기술진들이 협력하여 새로운 방안을 이틀간 모색하였다.

또한, 심사위원들에 의해 채택된 가장 우수한 제안서는 인권재단의 재정지원을 받아  ‘정보통제를  방해하라’ (Disrupt North Korea) 프로젝트의 일환으로 추진된다. 이 외에도, 특히 자유북한운동연합의 박상학 대표는  “이곳에서 마련된 새로운 GPS 시스템을 앞으로 남한땅에서 날려질 대북풍선에 장착하여 풍선의 경로 및 도착지점 등을  더욱 정확히 파악 할 수 있을것” 이라고 기대감을 표했다.

한편, ‘북한을 해킹하라’ 에서 제안된 여러 아이디어들은 “보안을 위해 대부분 비밀로 부쳐질 것” 이며, 국내 북한인권 단체들의 소중한 자원으로 사용될 것이라고 와서만(Wasserman) 대표는 밝혔다. 아울러 재단의 활동대표 알렉스 글래드스테인 (Alex Gladstein) 씨는 본 컨퍼런스가 “실리콘밸리 기업들이 가지고 있는 최고의 정보관련기술이 세계에서 가장 심각한 독재정권인 북한체체의 실제적인 변화를 가져오는데 귀한 통로로 쓰여지길 바란다”며  본 행사의 의의를 정의했다.