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U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

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Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
Founded October 2001
Type Non-profit
NGO
Location
Key people Roberta Cohen (Co-Chair, Board of Directors)
Andrew Natsios (Co-Chair, Board of Directors)
Greg Scarlatoiu (Executive Director)
Website [1]

Founded in 2001 by a group of foreign policy and human rights specialists, HRNK has published twelve reports on issues relevant to North Korean human rights today.[2] The Committee’s leadership has testified to Congress about North Korean human rights and China’s forced repatriation of North Korean refugees.[3][4] In April 2012, HRNK held its first major conference on North Korean human rights to launch its publication, The Hidden Gulag, Second Edition on North Korean political prison camps.[5]

History[edit]

Establishment[edit]

Founded in 2001 by a group of foreign policy and human rights specialists, HRNK filled a major gap in non-governmental expertise on North Korea. Well-established organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch initially found it difficult to incorporate North Korea, where information is notoriously challenging to obtain, into traditional models of research and advocacy. HRNK, an explicitly non-partisan research organization, began to break new ground in 2003 with the first edition of The Hidden Gulag by David Hawk. This was the first comprehensive study of North Korea’s prison camp system.

Past Non-Partisan Involvement[edit]

In the initial stages, HRNK cultivated its image as a non-partisan holder of expertise on North Korea in the United States. Early members of the Board of Directors included individuals with varying political affiliations and policy prescriptions—including Chuck Downs, Nicholas Eberstadt, Carl Gershman, Morton Abramowitz, and Samantha Powers. Co-chairs of the Board of Directors included US Representative Stephen J. Solarz and Ambassador James R. Lilley, for whom the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2001 is named. Solarz, a former New York Democratic congressman, was known as the “Marco Polo of Congress” for his long record of international travel and involvement in foreign affairs. Most notably, he was the first American politician to visit Kim Il-sung. Lilley was personally close to former President George HW Bush and served as Ambassador to the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China. Both Solarz and Lilley garnered respect from both sides of the aisle and emphasized a spirit of bipartisan comity.

Major Events[edit]

"Hidden Gulag" Conference (2012)[edit]

At the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington D.C., HRNK hosted its first major conference on the "Hidden Gulag," addressing North Korea’s network of political prison camps, on April 10, 2012. HRNK launched its publication, the second edition of The Hidden Gulag by former Amnesty International Executive Director and human rights specialist David Hawk, at the conference[5]

The conference attracted significant media attention, including an editorial in The Washington Post that touted the conference as “unprecedented."[6] Robert King, the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, addressed the conference. Glyn Davies, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korean Policy, was also in attendance.[7]

"A Call for Action" Conference (2012)[edit]

HRNK organized a conference at the Simon Wiesenthal Center at the Museum of Tolerance on October 12, 2012 on "North Korea’s Political Prisoner Camp System and the Plight of North Korean Refugees: A Call for Action."

HRNK's Executive Director and members of the Board of Directors spoke at the conference and provided education on North Korea. Additionally, HRNK arranged for speakers Rabbi Abraham Cooper, The Honorable Howard Berman, The Honorable Brad Sherman, The Honorable Ed Royce, R.O.K. Consul General Shin Yeon-sung, David Hawk, Dr. Han Dong-ho, Blaine Harden, Shin Dong-hyuk, Hannah Song, Melanie Kirkpatrick, and Dr. Cho Jung-hyun to speak.[8]

"Heart of Darkness" Conference (2013)[edit]

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and HRNK hosted a conference calling for the dismantlement of North Korea’s political prison camps at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie, IL on November 6, 2013. HRNK provided the speakers, coordinated for the event, invited the Korean American community in the Chicago area, and presented talks on North Korea's political prison camps system.

This conference was delivered to 300 people, including Korean Americans and Holocaust survivors. The event, which was translated simultaneously on-site in Korean and English, was led and featured HRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu, Resident Fellow Professor Hyun In-ae, and Board Co-Chair Roberta Cohen. They discussed the promotion of effective action and ways the Chicago and greater Midwest community can become involved in the North Korea-related advocacy and awareness.[9]

"Human Rights in North Korea: An Address by Michael Kirby" Conference (2014)[edit]

The Brookings Institution and HRNK hosted an event in which Michael Kirby, chair of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea (COI), addressed the report's findings and recommendations. The year-long investigation, which included hearings and interviews with North Korean defectors, found that “in many instances, the violations found entailed crimes against humanity based on state policies."[10]

Following Justice Kirby's address, Marcus Noland of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and an H