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Articles by Board Members, Fellows and Staff

[RFA Exclusive Interview] Roberta Cohen “North Korea represses news of sanctions on Kim Jong-un to block criticism of his legiti

Roberta Cohen, HRNK Co-Chair Emeritus
Jul 25, 2016

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The US recently instituted the first sanctions against North Korea Worker’s Party Chairman Kim Jong-un for his human rights violations, but the party has yet to inform the citizens of this news, and is thoroughly restricting related information. Roberta Cohen, an American North Korea human rights activist, interprets these information restrictions as a desperate countermeasure by Kim to block any criticism that would undermine his legitimacy. At this time, we will listen to this expert’s views on this issue during our exclusive interview with Cohen, who is Co-Chair Emeritus of the US non-profit organization Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Byun Chang-seop reporting. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

North Korea: Why Human Rights Must Come First

Carl Gershman
Feb 19, 2016

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In the wake of a North Korean rocket launch in clear violation of international sanctions, there is growing skepticism about the effectiveness of negotiations with North Korea. The Kim regime sees the relinquishment of its nuclear capabilities as an existential threat. It naturally responds negatively to the international community’s attempts to persuade it to do so, in spite of any economic and political benefits it might receive in exchange. Therefore, Gershman proposes a paradigm shift: the US and its allies should adopt an integrated approach to North Korea that not only aims to deter aggressive behavior, but also to defend human rights, thereby empowering the population to reject the closed, repressive nature of the current totalitarian system.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

Empty marching in Korea

Abraham Cooper and Greg Scarlatoiu
Apr 26, 2015

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A group of feminists led by Gloria Steinem announced a plan to stage a peace march starting in Pyongyang and crossing through the DMZ to Seoul, urging a formal end to the Korean War. HRNK Board Member Rabbi Abraham Cooper and HRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu caution that permission to march through North Korea, unlikely as it is, would merely be a cosmetic gesture intended to draw attention away from the many state-sanctioned human rights abuses. Instead, Cooper and Scarlatoiu suggest a protest at the border with China, which many North Koreans refugees cross to escape the Kim regime.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

Must UN Agencies Also Fail in North Korea?

Roberta Cohen, HRNK Co-Chair
Apr 21, 2015

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In 2011, a United Nations Panel of Experts found the UN system to have acquitted itself poorly in the face of widespread human rights violations in Sri Lanka. According to a 2012 Internal Review, some field staff “failed in their mandates to protect people,” some “under-reported Government violations,” and some in senior positions at headquarters “suppressed reporting efforts by their field staff.” Overall, these panels told the Secretary-General that the UN “did not adequately invoke principles of human rights”—the foundation of the organization—but instead, did “what was necessary to avoid confrontation with the government.”[1]...

To read more please follow the link to the 38North website. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

The Kim Regime's Atrocities, and the Road Ahead

Carl Gershman
Mar 05, 2015

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Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the report of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights in North Korea. UN reports often have very limited impact and resonance. But this report was different. Its impact has already been significant, which is testimony to the quality of the work done by the three commissioners—the Australian judge Michael Kirby, who chaired the body; the Indonesian lawyer and politician Marzuki Darusman, who is also the UN special rapporteur for North Korea; and the Serbian human rights defender Sonja Biserko.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

A Human Rights Dialogue with North Korea: Real or Illusory?

Roberta Cohen, HRNK Co-Chair
Oct 16, 2014

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North Korea has made a number of intriguing gestures recently on human rights. At the United Nations, its Foreign Minister announced his country’s readiness to hold a “human rights dialogue with countries not hostile to it.”[1] The North Korean Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) International Affairs Secretary, on a visit to Brussels, offered a human rights dialogue to the European Union (EU).[2] Even earlier, a North Korean official told a United Nations meeting that his government would accept some of the recommendations put forward by states in the Universal Periodic Review (a UN process that evaluates all countries’ human rights records).[3] And a Foreign Ministry official admitted to the press the existence of “reform through labor detention centers” in North Korea.[4]

To read the full article, please click here. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

CHINA’S FORCED REPATRIATION OF NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES INCURS UNITED NATIONS CENSURE

Roberta Cohen, HRNK Co-Chair
Jul 02, 2014

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The UN Commission of Inquiry (COI), set up in 2013 to investigate widespread, systematic, and grave human rights violations in North Korea, has strongly implicated China in North Korea’s commission of crimes against humanity because of its forced repatriation of North Korean refugees and asylum seekers who are severely punished once returned. China, however, insists that North Koreans exiting without permission are ‘economic migrants,’ not refugees, and that deportations are essential to maintaining its national security, social order, and border controls, as well as the stability of the Korean Peninsula. Although a preponderance of states at the United Nations have rejected China’s position, China has continued to subordinate UN human rights and refugee standards to its immediate political objectives and deny North Koreans their right to leave their country and seek asylum abroad. As greater international pressure focuses on China’s policies and practices, a vigorous international effort is needed to protect North Korean refugees and encourage China to see that its interests may be better served over the longer term by modifying its policies. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

Human Rights in North Korea: Addressing the Challenges

Roberta Cohen, HRNK Co-Chair
Dec 31, 2013

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An international response to North Korea’s egregious human rights record has begun to take shape. Building on the work of NGOs and UN human rights experts, the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2013 set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate whether North Korea’s systematic, widespread and grave violations constitute crimes against humanity for which DPRK officials could be held accountable. Although the COI was denied access to North Korea, this article argues that its findings and report are based on persuasive evidence and can have impact if a broad range of actors — governments, international organizations, NGOs and civil society — are mobilized. The author puts forward an array of strategies to more fully engage the world community and argues that the proactive carrying out of such initiatives may work to promote human rights in North Korea.

Key Words: North Korea, Human Rights, Humanitarian, United Nations, Commission of Inquiry

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

A Voice from the North Korean Gulag

Carl Gershman
Apr 01, 2013

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“The message of this searing camp memoir, and of everything else that we have come to know about the North Korean dictatorship, is that there is no greater evil in the world today,” writes NED President Carl Gershman in his review essay of Blaine Harden’s Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West.

The article will appear in the April issue of the Journal of Democracy.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).

North Korea Faces Heightened Human Rights Scrutiny

Roberta Cohen, HRNK Co-Chair
Mar 21, 2013

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On March 21, 2013 the United Nations Human Rights Council, a body of 47 states, adopted by consensus a resolution to establish a commission of inquiry (COI) into North Korea’s “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights.”[1] The commission is to be composed of three experts who will intensively investigate for a period of one year the human rights violations perpetrated by North Korea’s government with a view to ensuring “full accountability, in particular where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity” [emphasis added].

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).
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The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).
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 indoctrinat

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 Hamgyŏng-bukto, North Korea. Thousands of political prisoners are held in this re-education prison labor camp together with common offenders.