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Staff & Interns
Kia Fatahi
Kia Fatahi Research Intern Fall 2022
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Kia Fatahi recently graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies: Global Affairs & Diplomacy and a minor in Economics. He became interested in North Korea and Japan-Korea relations after taking courses such as “Modern Japanese History” and “East Asian Politics."

During his junior and senior years at Fordham, Kia conducted independent research in Tokyo and Seoul. In Japan, he had the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of issues of citizenship, identity, and ethnic education in relation to communities of Zainichi Koreans. In South Korea, he gathered information about North Korean defectors' stories of resettlement and integration into South Korean society. These projects have inspired him to research and report on human rights issues across East Asia.

As a research intern at HRNK, he hopes to enhance his knowledge of the North Korean regime and broaden his perspective on human rights issues on the Korean Peninsula. In the future, he aims to become a journalist by pursuing a dual-degree program in international affairs and journalism.

Ava Kim
Ava Kim Research Intern Fall 2022
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Ava Kim is a senior at the French American International High School (IB Program). She studies HL Global Politics, speaks four languages (English, French, Korean and Italian), and founded her school's book club.

She also studies music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College Program with a violin concentration and has been a part of numerous chamber ensembles, orchestras, contemporary ensembles, baroque ensembles, choir, and much more. She studies musicianship and music theory at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, under the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Curriculum. She has attended the Pre-College Program since 2011. She also danced at the San Francisco Ballet School for many years and has performed in the spring showcase numerous times.

Ava loves researching the politics of North Korea and South Korea and has focused on political theory and international relations in her studies. She plans on pursuing a career in this field in the future. Ava believes that her creative pursuits in music and dance have helped develop her analytical skills and critical thinking, which are highly relevant and applicable to her career aspirations. Ava wanted to join HRNK to have another means to connect her Korean heritage and culture with her passion for politics.

Kate Refolo
Kate Refolo Research Intern Summer 2022
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Kate Refolo is a recent graduate from Villanova University with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Interdisciplinary Studies: Cultural Studies and a minor in Philosophy. She graduated Summa Cum Laude and received the Cultural Studies Medallion of Academic Excellence during her senior year. She became interested in North Korean Human Rights and North-South Korea relations many years ago after watching a documentary about North Korean defectors’ escape experiences.

During her junior year at Villanova University, Kate studied abroad at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. At her study abroad orientation, she had the opportunity to listen to a North Korean defector’s escape story. This experience sparked her interest in the integration of North Korean refugees into South Korean society, and she decided to pursue this topic as her senior capstone thesis project. This project has inspired her to continue researching and advocating for North Korean human rights.

In January 2023, Kate will be returning to South Korea to teach English through the Fulbright program. While in South Korea, she hopes to have the opportunity to volunteer with and tutor North Korean defectors.

Valerie Xu
Valerie Xu Research Intern Summer 2022
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Valerie Xu is a rising second-year graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) pursuing a Master’s degree in International Relations with a concentration in States, Markets, and Institutions in Asia. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2021, with a double major in International Studies and East Asian Studies, both with honors, as well as a minor in Psychology. She became interested in the Korean Peninsula after taking courses such as “History and Culture of North Korea,” “Korea in the World,” “Korean War,” and “North Korea, Identity, and International Politics.” Through her undergraduate senior honor thesis, “Finding Space for Xingshaoshu (LGB) College Students in China,” she gained a deeper understanding of how advocacy and activism could be strategically conducted in a hostile environment under an authoritarian regime. Her research project was recognized as the co-winner of the 2021 Robert Tucker Prize for Best Thesis in International Studies. As a research intern at HRNK, she hopes to further her knowledge of the Korean Peninsula and broaden her perspectives on human rights issues. She aims to pursue a dual degree program in South Korea and aspires to apply her skills and experience in the fields of diplomacy and public affairs.

Amanda Leckner
Amanda Leckner Research Intern Spring 2022
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Amanda Leckner is a Junior at Virginia Tech, majoring in National Security and Foreign Affairs. 

She became interested in North Korea’s state of affairs and human rights issues in junior year of high school. In her sophomore year of college she decided to pursue research related to propaganda and surveillance in North Korea as her research topic for her department's research and writing course. From there, she knew that she wanted to continue to conduct research on the regime and work in North Korea-South Korea relations in her future career. 

At Virginia Tech, Amanda is an undergraduate research assistant under Dr. Ashley Shew on NSF CAREER Award on “Disability, Experience, and Technological Imagination” (#1750260). Further, she is an active member of Mozaiko, an intercultural living-learning community, in which she has served as the Vice President of Mentorship for the 2021-2022 academic year and will continue to serve in that role for the 2022-2023 cohort. In the Living-Learning community, she practices global competency and cross-cultural immersion.

After completing her undergraduate program she hopes to pursue a Juris Doctorate, to work in areas of international relations and human rights law. 

Yubin Jun
Yubin Jun Research Intern Spring 2022
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Yubin Jun is a senior at Sungkyunkwan University, pursuing BA in Political Science and Law. She is interested in the unique North Korean system and its implications for inter-Korean relations. She worked as a senior researcher at the undergraduate student
research group of Sungkyunkwan University, where she researched “Quad-Plus: Prospects and Implications to North Korea Nuclear Power.” During this research, she was deeply impressed by the influence of the U.S., which could leverage North Korea’s actions. She was appointed as president of the Global Student Network Help and Information Club of her school. In this role, she interacted with international students from various nations who have an interest in inter-Korea relations.

As part of her effort to understand inter-Korea relations, she also served as a student journalist at the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Korea. She interviewed prosecutor So-young Jang, who specializes in North Korean Law and crimes in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. She also served as a student reporter for the Ministry of Unification, where she wrote articles regarding the Unified Korean sports team at the 2018 Pyeong-Chang Olympics.

Her goal is to be a lawyer specializing in North Korean law and international relations who can advise private firms and governmental institutions that may invest in the exclusive industrial zone between South and North Korea. She hopes that working at HRNK will better equip her with different perspectives and provide a broader spectrum of knowledge of the situation between South and North Korea.

Juntae B. Rocker
Juntae B. Rocker Research Intern Spring 2022
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Juntae Rocker is a junior Honors student at the Pennsylvania State University, double majoring in Asian Studies and Korean with a minor in Digital Media Trends and Analytics. Through his participation as an American ambassador for the 13th and 14th Korea-America Student Conferences - an academic, professional, and cultural conference that promotes mutual understanding between future US and ROK student leaders through intercultural and professional exchange - he's had the privilege of connecting with North Korea aid workers, human rights activists, family reunification advocates, foreign policy diplomats, and more.

It was through these conferences and the networks he's made that he developed a passion for the North Korean humanitarian crisis and security dilemma. After serving as an American ambassador for a SK-NK-US trilateral youth workshop sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and tutoring North Korean defectors through Aurora NK, Juntae's interest in North Korean human rights eventually led him to intern with HRNK. He's confident that HRNK will provide him invaluable learning, research, and hands-on opportunities that'll expand his background on US-Korea affairs. More specifically, he hopes to gain more nuanced insights into issues like reunification, denuclearization, peacebuilding, and geopolitical stability on the Korean peninsula.

Juntae hopes to attend graduate school in South Korea for inter-Korean affairs through a full-ride masters scholarship program (GKS) and pursue a long-term career in US-Korea security and diplomacy.

Jack Boone
Jack Boone Research Intern Winter 2021
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Jack Boone is a first-year student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies pursuing a master’s degree in International Relations with a concentration in China Studies and International Political Economy. Through scholarly experiences in London, Beijing, and Washington, D.C., he became fascinated with the role China plays in the international system, including in regard to its bilateral relationship with North Korea. He hopes that his work at HRNK will not only strengthen his knowledge of human rights advocacy, but also allow him to gain a more direct and human understanding of relevant international political and economic systems.

Jiwoo Hwang
Jiwoo Hwang Research Intern Summer 2021
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Jiwoo Hwang is a rising sophomore in Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. She was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to different countries, including due to her father’s job as a diplomat. After meeting a teenage defector at a seminar hosted by her family friends, her interest in North Korea grew. As an intern of HRNK, Jiwoo hopes that she can learn more about the current situation in North Korea and more about the detailed history of the Kim’s reign. She also looks forward to reaching out to the ones suffering in North Korea.

Claire McCrea
Claire McCrea Research Intern Summer 2021
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Claire McCrea is first-year student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies pursuing a master’s degree in International Relations with a concentration in Korea studies and human rights. She studied Korean at Ewha Womans University in 2017 through a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) fellowship and again in 2019 through a Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship. While an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, she conducted research on the role played by U.S. foreign policymakers in combating human rights abuses in North Korea as well as on the culture and politics of Chongryon (or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan). As a research intern at HRNK, Claire hopes to play a direct role in promoting human rights in North Korea and begin her career in human rights advocacy.

George Hutchinson's The Suryong, the Soldier, and Information in the KPA is the second of three building blocks of a multi-year HRNK project to examine North Korea's information environment. Hutchinson's thoroughly researched and sourced report addresses the circulation of information within the Korean People's Army (KPA). Understanding how KPA soldiers receive their information is needed to prepare information campaigns while taking into account all possible contingenc

North Korea’s Political Prison Camp, Kwan-li-so No. 14, Update 1
Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., Greg Scarlatoiu, and Amanda Mortwedt Oh
Dec 22, 2021

This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former prisoner interviews to shed light on human suffering in North Korea by monitoring activity at political prison facilities throughout the nation. This is the second HRNK satellite imagery report detailing activity observed during 2015 to 2021 at a prison facility commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as “Kwan-li-so No. 14 Kaech’ŏn” (39.646810, 126.117058) and

North Korea's Long-term Prison-Labor Facility, Kyo-hwa-so No.3, T’osŏng-ni (토성리)
Joseph S Bermudez Jr, Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Oh, & Rosa Tokola
Nov 03, 2021

This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former prisoner interviews to shed light on human suffering in North Korea by monitoring activity at civil and political prison facilities throughout the nation. This study details activity observed during 1968–1977 and 2002–2021 at a prison facility commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as "Kyo-hwa-so No. 3, T'osŏng-ni" and endeavors to e

North Korea’s Political Prison Camp, Kwan-li-so No. 25, Update 3
Joseph S Bermudez Jr, Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Oh, & Rosa Tokola
Sep 30, 2021

This report is part of a comprehensive long-term project undertaken by HRNK to use satellite imagery and former detainee interviews to shed light on human suffering in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, more commonly known as North Korea) by monitoring activity at political prison facilities throughout the nation. This report provides an abbreviated update to our previous reports on a long-term political prison commonly identified by former prisoners and researchers as Kwan-li-so

North Korea’s Potential Long-Term  Prison-Labor Facility at Sŏnhwa-dong (선화동)
Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Oh, & Rosa Park
Aug 26, 2021

Through satellite imagery analysis and witness testimony, HRNK has identified a previously unknown potential kyo-hwa-so long-term prison-labor facility at Sŏnhwa-dong (선화동) P’ihyŏn-gun, P’yŏngan-bukto, North Korea. While this facility appears to be operational and well maintained, further imagery analysis and witness testimony collection will be necessary in order to irrefutably confirm that Sŏnhwa-dong is a kyo-hwa-so.

North Korea’s Long-term Prison-Labor Facility Kyo-hwa-so No. 8, Sŭngho-ri (승호리) - Update
Joseph S Bermudez, Jr, Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda M Oh, & Rosa Park
Jul 22, 2021

"North Korea’s Long-term Prison-Labor Facility Kyo-hwa-so No. 8, Sŭngho-ri (승호리) - Update" is the latest report under a long-term project employing satellite imagery analysis and former political prisoner testimony to shed light on human suffering in North Korea's prison camps.

Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Korea: The Role of the United Nations" is HRNK's 50th report in our 20-year history. This is even more meaningful as David Hawk's "Hidden Gulag" (2003) was the first report published by HRNK. In his latest report, Hawk details efforts by many UN member states and by the UN’s committees, projects and procedures to promote and protect human rights in the DPRK.  The report highlights North Korea’s shifts in its approach

South Africa’s Apartheid and North Korea’s Songbun: Parallels in Crimes against Humanity by Robert Collins underlines similarities between two systematically, deliberately, and thoroughly discriminatory repressive systems. This project began with expert testimony Collins submitted as part of a joint investigation and documentation project scrutinizing human rights violations committed at North Korea’s short-term detention facilities, conducted by the Committee for Human Rights