Home > HRNK Announcements
HRNK Announcements
PRESS RELEASE: State of the Union Address to the World: Protect and Support North Korean Escapees!
February 01, 2018

State of the Union Address to the World: Protect and Support North Korean Escapees!


Ji Seong-ho lifts his crutches up in triumph during President Trump’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night. These crutches helped Ji escape the Kim regime after he lost a hand and foot.


President Donald Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) Address on Tuesday night sent a clear message to the world: protect and support North Korean escapees and give them a voice! President Trump displayed his administration’s commitment to the North Korean people and “American resolve” to confronting the Kim regime by inviting Ji Seong-ho and Otto Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy, to appear as special guests of First Lady Melania Trump during the SOTU.


“Protect and support North Korean escapees and groups working to improve the North Korean human-rights situation, give North Korean escapees a voice, do not muffle them.” –Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu


The First Lady’s guests embodied both tragedy and hope but ultimately resilience in the face of adversity. Mr. Ji’s literal raising of his crutches in triumph and defiance of the Kim regime will live on in history as a message of the strength and determination of the North Korean people.


Mr. Ji is a North Korean escapee who grew up during the country’s grueling famine in the 1990s. In order to survive, Ji would exchange stolen coal for food on the black market. While taking coal from a train car in 1996, a malnourished Ji lost consciousness and fell onto the tracks, losing his left hand and foot when a train ran over him. After a grueling amputation surgery, Ji was left to fend for himself. In 2006, he escaped to South Korea, where he is now a law student at Dongguk University. Ji is also the president of Now Action and Unity for Human Rights (NAUH), where he helps broadcast information into North Korea and facilitates the resettlement of defectors in South Korea. His most recent work with NAUH involved giving theatrical performances entitled “Kotjebi” (“Street Children”) in the United States to detail the abuses that street children roaming around the markets of North Korea face.

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) commends the coverage of our friend, Ji Seong-ho, who has endured but overcome so much. As HRNK Co-Vice-Chair Suzanne Scholte noted, “Much congratulations go to Greg Scarlatoiu for leading the effort to make it possible for Ji to be there for this historic occasion.”


HRNK continues to mourn the tragic and cruel loss of Otto Warmbier, a death due to torture at the hands of the Kim regime, according to Senior Adviser Robert Collins. As Ambassador Nikki Haley said yesterday on her Twitter account, “We will never forget Otto or the other Americans being held by the brutal NK regime. #NeverForgetOtto”


Fred and Cindy Warmbier look to President Trump as he honors the loss of their son, Otto, during the SOTU.


At HRNK, we will never forget all those who have suffered and died due to the Kim regime, and we continue to call for the regime to dismantle its egregious political prison camps where upwards of 120,000 are reported to be imprisoned for political “crimes.” In recent Congressional testimony, HRNK has also recommended that the US Congress pass  S.1118, the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017, and that the Trump Administration appoint a full-time special envoy to address the ongoing issue of North Korean human rights.


Please stay tuned for Director of Programs Rosa Park’s exclusive interview with Mr. Ji following his appearance during the State of the Union as a guest of First Lady Melania Trump. More information can be found at our website, www.hrnk.org, Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CommitteeHRNK, and Twitter account, twitter.com/committeehrnk.


HRNK’s Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu is available for any media requests at executive.director@hrnk.org or 202-499-7973.  His comments appear in Gordan Chang’s recent Daily Beast article here: https://www.thedailybeast.com/in-state-of-the-union-trump-goes-where-kim-jong-un-fears-most.


HRNK was founded in 2001 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization dedicated to documenting human rights conditions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as North Korea is formally known. Visit www.hrnk.org to find out more.



Board of Directors
(Affiliations other than HRNK are for identification only)

Gordon Flake (Co-Chair)
Katrina Lantos Swett (Co-Chair)
John Despres (Co-Vice-Chair)
Suzanne Scholte (Co-Vice-Chair)
Helen-Louise Hunter (Secretary)
Kevin C. McCann (Treasurer) 
Roberta Cohen (Co-Chair Emeritus)
Andrew Natsios (Co-Chair Emeritus) 
Morton Abramowitz
Jerome Cohen
Lisa Colacurcio
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Jack David
Nicholas Eberstadt
Carl Gershman
Stephen Kahng
David Kim
Robert King
Debra Liang-Fenton
Winston Lord
David Maxwell
Marcus Noland
Jacqueline Pak

Executive Director
Greg Scarlatoiu

THE REPORT IS EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:01 A.M. EST WEDNESDAY DEC. 19, 2018. Denied from the Start: Human Rights at the Local Level in North Korea is a comprehensive study of how North Korea’s Kim regime denies human rights for each and every citizen of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In doing so, this report examines human rights denial policies and practices. Local institutions are responsible for this denial at the schools, housing units, workplaces, and beyon

In this submission, HRNK focuses its attention on the DPRK’s—  1. System of political imprisonment, wherein a multitude of human rights violations are evidenced, including enforced disappearance, amounting to crimes against humanity.  2. Restrictions on freedom of movement, affecting women in particular, as evidenced in sexual violence, human trafficking, and arbitrary detention.  3. Policy of social and political discrimination, known as “so

From Cradle to Grave: The Path of North Korean Innocents
Robert Collins and Amanda Mortwedt Oh
Nov 13, 2017

This paper draws on existing research and Robert Collins’ previous work to explain the ideological basis and institutional structure of the Kim regime’s rule of terror, with an emphasis on the political prison camps. It is intended to provide a brief overview of how North Korea’s party-state controls every individual’s life from the cradle to the grave through relentless indoctrination, surveillance, and punishment. Specifically, it seeks to answer the following questions: What so

The Parallel Gulag: North Korea's
David Hawk with Amanda Mortwedt Oh
Oct 26, 2017

In this book, David Hawk provides never-before-seen imagery of labor re-education camps, both suspected and confirmed. He reveals a parallel network of prisons controlled by the DPRK’s Ministry of People’s Security (An-jeon-bu). These revelations suggest the imposition of degrees of suffering even more pervasive than the UN COI described in 2014. Although these labor camps might be described as “ordinary prisons”, there is nothing “ordinary” in the treatment of those i

North Korea Camp No. 25 Update 2
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Andy Dinville, and Mike Eley
Nov 29, 2016

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 9.0px Helvetica; color: #3f5864} span.s1 {font: 5.0px Helvetica} As part of a joint undertaking with HRNK to use satellite imagery to shed light on human suffering in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, more commonly known as North Korea), AllSource Analysis has been monitoring activity at political prison facilities throughout North Korea. This report details activity observed during the past

North Korea: Flooding at Kyo-hwa-so No. 12, Jongo-ri
Greg Scarlatoiu and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
Sep 16, 2016

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a non-governmental organization based in Washington, DC and AllSource Analysis, a leading global provider of high-resolution earth imagery solutions, have conducted a satellite imagery-based rapid assessment of flood damage at Kyo-hwa-so No. 12, Jongo-ri in Hamgyo╠ćng-bukto, North Korea. Thousands of political prisoners are held in this re-education prison labor camp together with common offenders.