Advocates around the world rely on citizen testimony to hold human rights abusers accountable. In North Korea, however, strict government control silences dissent and leaves only those who have fled the country as viable sources for evidence against the regime.
To amplify the voices of North Korean defector activists now residing in South Korea, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) has worked since 2011 to increase their capacity and influence. Following a series of human rights workshops, NDI has assisted activists with development of effective testimony and facilitated international advocacy opportunities with government representatives and human rights bodies. To extend these opportunities to more of the estimated 30,000 North Korean refugees in South Korea and others around the world, NDI has produced an eight-minute introductory human rights training video.
In a 2011 interview, NDI Chairman and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the Huffington Post, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”
The international community has worked for years to understand life in North Korea. What we know today has largely been sourced from the stories of defectors who successfully escaped, documenting that North Korea has committed and continues to commit human rights violations, ranking among the world’s worst, including political persecution, murder, enslavement, torture, starvation, forced abortion, infanticide and rape.
As part of broader programming to strengthen organizations in South Korea working to address these violations, NDI has organized human rights workshops focusing on international human rights mechanisms, the importance of defector voices and possibilities for future progress on the issue.
The Korean-language video (with English subtitles) provides North Korean defectors an additional tool to become more informed about human rights processes and encourages them to pursue their own advocacy work. The training video empowers refugees by showing the essential role of defector advocacy in realizing progress for North Korean human rights. By sharing their testimony and joining South Korean and international organizations to address North Korean human rights, defectors become the voices of the voiceless as they work together to improve the human rights situation and hold perpetrators accountable.
Equipped with testimony from defectors, the international community is able to address North Korea’s human rights situation. The United Nations (UN) conducted two Universal Periodic Reviews of North Korea, and a special UN Commission of Inquiry produced detailed reports, and later recommended that the UN Security Council refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court.
Beginning this month, South Korea is implementing the North Korean Human Rights Act mandated to establish a foundation, research center, and archive to document rights abuses as preparation for future accountability. The United States is also now implementing its own sanctions against North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and other officials for their complicity in human rights abuses.
The NDI human rights training video was produced with support from the Fundamental Freedoms Fund of the United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Published on September 16, 2016