Ambassador Richard Williamson passed away in December 2013 at the age of 64. He was a member of the HRNK Board of Directors.
It is with extraordinary sadness that the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) announces the sudden passing of Board member Richard Salisbury Williamson, American thought leader, diplomat, lawyer and teacher. Ambassador Williamson served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and as United States Ambassador to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs. HRNK will always remember Ambassador Williamson’s commitment to shedding light on North Korea’s human rights violations. While serving as Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2004, he gave strong support to the UN’s appointment of a special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea. He recognized the importance of concentrating a special international focus on the human rights situation in that country and spoke out to help bring freedom and democracy to the people of North Korea. His profound commitment to the promotion of democratic values extended worldwide. As United States Special Envoy for Sudan, he played an important role in speaking out against genocide in Darfur. His book, America’s Mission in the World: Principles, Practices and Predicaments, published in 2009, expressed the need to expand human rights, democracy and freedom in countries and regions throughout the world. This year he co-authored a widely publicized report with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the responsibility to protect. In it, he called for a United States commitment to promote protection for civilians from genocide and other forms of mass atrocity. HRNK lost an extremely capable advocate of North Korean human rights and a true leader in the fight for freedom worldwide. Ambassador Williamson’s work continues to set a shining example for HRNK’s future.
Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director
Roberta Cohen and Andrew Natsios, Co-Chairs, Board of Directors
Jaehoon Ahn, a member of the HRNK Board of Directors, passed away in June 2011.
As a native son of Pyongyang whose family was forced to flee after Kim Il-sung's takeover, Mr. Ahn personally understood the unique urgency of promoting North Korean human rights.
Before joining HRNK, Mr. Ahn brought rigor and integrity to his many journalistic endeavors. He served as a correspondent for JoongAng Ilbo, a researcher for The Washington Post, and founding director of Radio Free Asia's Korean Service. His hard work and persistence in building the Korean Service from scratch helped to establish Radio Free Asia as an important source of information on both sides of the 38th parallel.
Mr. Ahn's knowledge, passion, and team spirit enabled HRNK to make the best use of its diverse range of talent and opinions.
HRNK lost an extremely capable advocate of North Korean human rights and a widely respected human being. Jaehoon Ahn was a mentor to many, and an inspiration to all.
HRNK was saddened to lose Fred C. Iklé in 2011. One of the earliest and most consistent supporters of HRNK, Mr. Iklé leveraged his many connections to secure important sources of funding for the fledgling organization in its early years.
Mr. Iklé enhanced HRNK’s credibility by bringing a lifetime of service and achievement to the Board, including but not limited to his role as architect of U.S. nuclear defense strategy under President Ronald Reagan. He made significant contributions to the policy community following his government service through his years as a Distinguished Fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and as a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), among others.
HRNK has become a strong organization with a record of original research and well-received publications on North Korean human rights in no small part because of Mr. Iklé's ideas, passion, and reputation.
Ambassador James R. Lilley passed away in November 2009 at the age of 81. He was a former Co-Chair of the HRNK Board of Directors.
Ambassador Lilley served for decades in the diplomatic, intelligence, and policy communities. After a career as a CIA operative in Asia, he served as director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Ambassador to South Korea, and Ambassador to China. He earned a reputation as a consummate Asia hand, receiving effusive praise from Democrats and Republicans alike. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Ambassador Lilley "one of our nation's finest diplomats;" President George H.W. Bush remarked that Lilley was a "most knowledgeable and effective ambassador who served with great honor and distinction."
Ambassador Lilley balanced a pragmatic, bipartisan approach with passionate advocacy for human rights. Responding to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 in China, Lilley maintained a principled but careful approach that allowed the United States to express its negative reaction to the incident without permanently debilitating US-China relations.
The 2012 Ambassador James R. Lilley and Congressman Stephen J. Solarz North Korean Human Rights Act, the most significant legislative accomplishment for the North Korean human rights community in the United States, is a testament to the spirit of bipartisan comity and pragmatic idealism that Ambassador Lilley brought to HRNK.
Ambassador Lilley's leadership continues to set a shining example for HRNK's future.
Stephen J. Solarz, a former US Representative from New York and a Co-Chair of the HRNK Board of Directors, passed away in 2010 after a fight with esophageal cancer. He was 70.
Congressman Solarz left behind a legacy of service, congressional leadership, and personal diplomacy in over 100 countries as a leading voice on foreign policy and human rights in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1980, he flew from Pretoria to Pyongyang to become the first American politician to visit North Korea and meet with Kim Il-sung, an experience which reinforced his conviction that North Korea is "truly the most repressive regime in the world, bar none." For his extensive diplomacy and foreign travel, Congressman Solarz earned the moniker of "the Marco Polo of Congress."
Most importantly, Congressman Solarz brought his longstanding record of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy and human rights issues to HRNK. In the face of significant opposition from many members of his own party in the House of Representatives, Congressman Solarz worked with the respected Republican House Minority Leader Bob Michel to build bipartisan support for the resolution that authorized the Gulf War. His bipartisanship extends to North Korean human rights issues; the 2012 Ambassador James R. Lilley and Congressman Stephen J. Solarz North Korean Human Rights Act bears his name and that of his Republican colleague James R. Lilley, a fellow Board member of HRNK.
Congressman Solarz brought ideas, connections, and credible leadership to HRNK. He urged HRNK to send its recommendations to the Obama administration. Congressman Solarz guided and inspired HRNK beginning in its early years. HRNK is a respected, bipartisan organization today because Congressman Solarz helped to pave the way.
Despite North Korea’s adamant denial that political prison camps exist, research based on interviews and satellite imagery reveals a shocking and detailed operation of a vast system of arbitrary and extra-judicial, unlawful detention. In its findings released
Report embargoed until 12:01a.m. EST on Tuesday, February 9, 2016.