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Articles by Board Members, Fellows and Staff

Nixon’s China Opening, 40 Years Later

Winston Lord, HRNK Board Member and Leslie Gelb
Feb 20, 2012

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Forty years after the triumphant summit in China, Leslie H. Gelb, then a diplomatic correspondent, and Winston Lord, then a Kissinger adviser, reflect on what Obama could learn from Nixon’s boldness and creativity. Plus, Winston Lord on Crafting the Shanghai Communique with Kissinger.

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).

Advancing Human Rights and the Prospect for Democracy in North Korea

Carl Gershman
Feb 16, 2012

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Address given at the Heung-in Medal award ceremony in Seoul on February 16, 2012 by Carl Gershman, medal recipient. 

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 Magnanimous Comrade: Kim Jong-un’s Amnesty

Greg Scarlatoiu
Jan 16, 2012

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North Korea recently announced a special amnesty to prisoners, the first in over six years, to be issued beginning on February 1, in observance of Kim Jong-il’s birthday on February 16 and in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung. The announcement came only two days after the January 8 birthday of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s recently anointed leader. For the almost 63 years that have passed since its establishment, North Korea has been under the rule of three generations of the Kim clan. While his father had 20 years to prepare and was 52 years old when he assumed leadership in 1994, Kim Jong-un barely had 3 years to prepare, and is only 28 or 29 years old. Despite enjoying the protection of hardline senior, including his uncle Jang Sung-taek and aunt Kim Kyong-hui, and the apparent support of the Korean People’s Army, Workers’ Party and security agencies, experts’ predictions regarding his long-term survival are not buoyant…

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: The American Dilemma

Jerome Cohen, HRNK Board Memeber
Jan 04, 2012

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This article was first published with some editing in the South China Morning Post on December 30, 2011 under the title “Engage, Don’t Isolate.” It was published in Chinese in the China Times (Taiwan) on December 29, 2011. Illustration from SCMP.

The December 19 announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death has stimulated another round of useful debate in the United States about how it and its South Korean and Japanese allies should deal with North Korea. Predictions about what is likely to happen under the new leadership of Kim Jong-un run the gamut, and suggested policies are just as diverse.

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).

Kim Jong Il: Road to Ruin

Nicholas Eberstadt, HRNK Board Member
Dec 21, 2011

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Eberstadt outlines North Korea’s descent into ruin through the disastrous economic policies of Kim Jong Il during his reign. It was under his rule that the country fell from economic competition with the South, to the status of a Fourth World country. Lacking the pragmatism of his father, Kim Jong Il’s selfish and idealistic views left a legacy of a ruined and degraded country.

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 Death of Kim Jong Il and North Korea’s Broken Dynasty

Nicholas Eberstadt, HRNK Board Member
Dec 20, 2011

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The subtitle of this article state ” How Dear Leader Blew the Transfer of Power.”, and Eberstadt goes on to outline just that.  Unlike Kim Il Sung, who invested almost  a quarter of a century into preparing his son for takeover, Kim Jong Il seemingly put little effort into preparing  current leader Kim Jong Eun. This article is an in-depth analysis of the rise to power of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Eun.

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).

Interview: Noland on the death of Kim Jong-il

Marcus Noland, HRNK Board Member
Dec 19, 2011

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Peterson Perspectives audio interview of Marcus Noland conducted by Steven Weisman on the death of Kim Jong-il and what the future of North Korea may hold.

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 Defector’s Tale: Inside North Korea’s Secret Economy

Kim Kwang Jin
Sep 01, 2011

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Following the collapse of the global socialist market in the early 1990s, an unexpected thing happened on North Korea’s road to financial oblivion: The same economy that cannot produce a usable toothbrush is now armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. I say this as someone who knows, having been involved, however obliquely, in providing the funds that made the atom splitting possible. There is much I still don’t know about my native land, but this much is clear to me: This central riddle of North Korea—advanced technology within abysmal backwardness—is wrapped in the mystery of its economic structure, and compounded by the enigma of Kim Jong-il’s opaque motives. My own involvement in the North Korean economy leads me to believe that an economic corpse has been able to produce such nuclear achievements by creating what is essentially a secret, invisible, firewalled financial system scavenging off the West, which Kim created to compensate for the collapse of the normal or “People’s Economy” of North Korea.

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 Koreans Starve while Washington Wavers

Morton Abromowitz
Jul 12, 2011

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Various US-based NGOs have investigated the food situation in North Korea and concluded that there is a pressing need for food aid. Their findings were corroborated by European counterparts, the EU, and the WFP. However, despite this, the US government has done little to address this problem, in part due to a lack of agreement regarding appropriate monitoring mechanisms. South Korea has also discouraged aid following the sinking of a South Korean vessel last year by the North, while the bulk of the rice sent by China is received by the political elite and not the most vulnerable groups.

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).

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