NKHR Finds Solidarity in Jakarta
NKHR partnered with well-known Indonesian NGO KontraS to launch our second campaign in Jakarta with the goal of better informing local media, civic society groups, and university students about the North Korean human rights and refugee situation. With the United Nations Human Rights Council’s establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into North Korea’s human rights violations in March 2013, there has never been a more crucial time for Indonesia to support the international community’s human rights efforts concerning North Korea. And as home to the current UN Special Rapporteur on North Korea and a leading country of ASEAN, Indonesia is especially a key country for continued activism.
Through the testimonies of former victims Ms. Hye-sook Kim and Ms. Myung-sook Lee, our two-day campaign’s focal points were, respectively, political prison camps and the ongoing enforced repatriation of North Korean refugees by China.
When NKHR went to Jakarta for the first time in August 2012, Ms. Kim, a survivor of Camp 18, accompanied us to speak about the terror of her 28 years in a political prison camp. Because political prison camps continue to be one of the most critical issues in North Korean human rights, and because of her leading role in speaking out internationally against them, Ms. Kim’s testimony is a powerful tool for activism. Once again, Ms. Kim’s stories and drawings of scenes from her time in the camp created immediate sensations at the press conference and university lecture. She described her drawings one by one, talking about executions, hunger, torture, and brutality against prisoners.
Unlike the political prison camps issue, it was the first time that the subject of the Chinese government's enforced repatriation of North Korean refugees had reached our Indonesian audience. After Ms. Lee was repatriated by China, she was sentenced to 8 years in prison without any due process and experienced innumerable forms of torture in prison, including watching her newborn baby be killed because of its half-Chinese heritage. As Ms. Lee told her story to different groups of people, one unexpected reaction emerged – Indonesians repeatedly told us that they identified with so many aspects of her story, particularly the treatment she received in detention.
In her testimony to Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women, Ms. Lee included graphic details that she did not speak about elsewhere, noting that she felt the female camaraderie in the room. And after hearing her story and Ms. Kim’s story, Commissioner Andy Yentriyani responded, “We cannot help but link your advocacy with our advocacy because are stories are so interlinked.” The commissioner and her staff then told us about Indonesia’s own history of military dictatorship and violence against women. They commented that the stories of Ms. Kim and Ms. Lee sounded too similar to their own history and promised to call upon ASEAN and Indonesian Parliament regarding North Korean women’s human rights.
NKHR’s visit to Jakarta ended by meeting victims of past human rights violations and their families, and also by holding a small lecture at Al-Azhar University for students. Though our trip lasted only two days, it was a full, meaningful campaign that matured our advocacy effort to the next level in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. With NKHR’s first trip to Jakarta in August 2012, we started a dialogue with several MPs and held a large-scale conference on North Korean human rights. This time, we experienced a deeper connection to the Indonesian people as they shared their own stories and enabled us to listen and learn. The solidarity we found in our partner KontraS, especially, will enable NKHR to increase our advocacy for the improvement of North Korean human rights and refugees in the region.