Founded in Seoul in 1996, NKHR is the world’s first and oldest NGO Devoted fully to the advancement of human rights in North Korea. We have played a significant role in making the North Korean human rights issue known internationally by organizing international conferences worldwide partnering with media, filmmakers, artists, and authors to spread awareness about human rights violations in North Korea and establishing an international network of NGO to influence government policymakers and the United Nations.
NKHT works closely with the United Nations, participating in UN reviews of North Korea’s adherence to human rights laws and consistently briefing UN officials, agencies, and diplomats on developments in North Korea. NKHR played a central role in the establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human Rights in the DPRK in 2004, as well the UN Commission of Inquiry for the DPRK in 2013. In 2014, the Commission announced that North Korea’s leaders should be held legally accountable for committing crimes against humanity.
Apart from it’s advocacy in Seoul and at the United Nations, NKHR Brings North Korea’s human rights violations to the attention of NGO, governments, intergovernmental organizations and the general public in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. In South Korea and abroad, NKHR raises awareness through concerts, art exhibitions, seminars and meetings to reach a broad and diverse audience. Our campaigns advocate for ending North Korea’s ongoing human rights violations, improving the treatment of North Korean refugees and addressing the challenges of resettling in South Korea.
NKHR’s advocacy also encompasses the enforced disappearance of South Korean nationals by North Korea. We are a member of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary disappearances and the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances. We work with the relatives of the disappeared and submit individual cases to the UN Working Group on Enforced of Involuntary Disappearances, among other activities.
NKHT was among the first to provide direct assistance to North Korean refugees. We continue to help refugees in need reach South Korea safely, particularly women and children at risk of being sexually trafficked in China. NKHR is also a member of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.
Since 1999, NKHR has run various education and resettlement programs for North Korean youth in South Korea. Our resettlement programs include weekly activities at Hanawon-South Korea’s government center for newly-arrived North Koreans-three-week camps for youth, leadership and career training programs and scholarships. Several of our students have gone on to receive academic scholarships and internships abroad.
NKHR also conducts field research on human rights conditions in North Korea. Our numerous published reports have addressed women’s rights, children’s rights, political prison camps, the prevalence of torture and challenges North Koreans face when hey resettle in South Korea. Various governments and UN bodies, including the Commission of Inquiry, have relied on our reports.
NKHR is a non-partisan, non-religious and non-profit organization that sustains it’s programs through member donations, fundraising concerts, domestic and international grants and corporate and private contributions. Membership is open to everyone. Our members include former officials of governments and intergovernmental organizations, academics, artists, journalists, executives, activists and North Korean resettlers. NKHR has been the recipient of several awards, including the government of Canada’s first-ever John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award in 2011.
Founders of the Korean chapter of Amnesty International, fighting for democracy and human rights under South Korea’s military dictatorships of the 1970s and 80s, we were too occupied with our own struggle to turn our eyes to North Korea. But in the 90s, when the first victims of North Korea’s political prison camps starting reaching South Korea, I asked myself, how will we answer the victims and their families when they ask us one day : “What did you do to help when you knew we were dying?”
When we first started Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, we were alone. There was not even one response. But slowly the movement started growing both domestically and inter-nationally, united under our slogan of “Shining a Light on North Korean Human Rights.” Those words and our logo the image of a candle have roots in our history offighting for human rights in South Korea as Amnesty International famous motto “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”