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NKHR attends Leadership Workshop with AFAD
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2015-12-18 11:31:55
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NKHR attends Leadership Workshop with the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)

By Michele Park Sonen, Campaign Team Program Officer

NKHR was invited to Manila in December 2015 to participate in a leadership training organized by the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD).  AFAD is a federation of thirteen member NGOs throughout Asia who work to end enforced disappearances worldwide.  NKHR is a member of AFAD because of our advocacy for the 516 post-Korean War victims of enforced disappearance by the government of North Korea.

AFAD representatives gathered from as far away as Pakistan and Bangladesh to take part in this rare opportunity to strengthen our leadership skills. The workshop—entitled Breakthrough in Leadership and Strategy—was facilitated by Bridge, a global consulting company that helps businesses develop leaders ( Although primarily a for-profit organization that supports some of the world’s most successful companies Unilever, Lego, or Tesco, Bridge recently began using its expertise to foster leadership among activists in conflict areas such as India-governed Kashmir.  In Kashmir, AFAD’s chairperson, Khurram Parvez, twice attended a Bridge training and immediately recognized the positive impact it could have on AFAD. Bridge generously donated their facilitators’ time and even monetary resources so that AFAD could share in this invaluable training.

Bridge facilitators leading a workshop activity

The leadership training was indeed “extraordinary,” as the Bridge motto—“Unleash the Extraordinary”—promised it would be. The three-day workshop focused on three areas:  improving ourselves by recognizing our own weaknesses and motivations; strengthening the way we interact with one another; and finally, developing the ability to gain new insights and creatively tackle challenges. The workshop proved extremely meaningful for all of us—we became not only more effective leaders but better human beings. We shared our heartfelt and often tearful words of hope for a better world, as well as our deep gratitude to AFAD and Bridge.

A handful of representatives from AFAD’s member organizations have themselves experienced the pain of losing a loved one to disappearance. One of them is Ms. Edith Burgos. Her son, Jonas Burgos, was disappeared in the Philippines in April 2007. Jonas was abducted at a restaurant in the capital city, Manila, presumably because of his connections to a rebel opposition group.  Judicial courts in the Philippines found the military responsible for the abduction, but the military continues to deny its role and will not surface Jonas. For eight long years, Mrs. Burgos has tirelessly advocated for her son’s release. 

Mrs. Burgos leading a demonstration 

Mrs. Burgos (center) with two wives of victims of disappearance, Shui Meng Ng (left; wife of Sombath Somphone, disappeared in 2012) and Amina Masood Janjua (right; wife of Masood Ahmed Janjua, disappeared in 2005).  Ms. Ng and Ms. Janjua have since also become activists and are members of AFAD.

During the Bridge workshop, AFAD took the group to a special performance about Mrs. Burgos’s search for her son, Mrs. B.  In a one-act, forty minute monologue, Mrs. B powerfully depicts the agony of a mother searching for her son. The monologue B brought tears to the eyes of nearly everyone in the audience. Our hearts ached for Mrs. Burgos, as well as the wife and young daughter of Jonas, who were with us that night. In one of the most impactful scenes, Mrs. B is haunted by images of Jonas being hauled away and beaten while screaming, “I am just an activist!”


AFAD members with Mrs. Burgos (center in black t-shirt) and the actress who played her (center in white shirt) holding a photo of Jonas. 

The mothers of the South Korean abductees know too well the pain of losing a child.  Young-ja yoon, for example, lost her son when he was only 15 years old.  Jong-up Park was a young fisherman trying to help provide for his poor family.  Early nearly every morning, Jong-up would go out to sea to fish for squid.  On July 10, 1968, Jong-up woke up late and missed his boat and instead joined the crew of the Gadeok-ho. On this fateful day, while Jong-up was out at sea, armed North Korean navy boats attacked the Gadeok-ho, firing at the crew. The boat and the entire crew were forcibly taken to North Korea.  Less than six months later, all of the crewmembers were allowed to return to South Korea—except Jong-up Park. No one has heard from him since.

 A photo of Jong-up Park when he was a young child.

Since the day of his disappearance, Jong-up’s mother, Ms. Yoon, was overcome with guilt and sadness.  She blames herself for Jong-up’s abduction—if only she had woken him up on time, he would never have been on the Gadeok-ho. Ms. Yoon passed away in 2011, without ever hearing from or seeing her son again.

The disappearance of Jong-up Park was one of ten new cases NKHR submitted to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 2015.  So far, NKHR has submitted 54 cases of disappearance to the Working Group. Of those, the Working Group has so far requested and received responses from North Korea for 27 of the cases. North Korea’s responses continue to maintain there are no victims of enforced disappearance in the country.  Not only does North Korea deny the disappearances, but it accuses NKHR and the victims of alleging false information extending from “stereotyped heinous political plots pursued by the hostile forces against the [North Korea].”

Standing behind the victims of North Korea’s human rights violations is the core of NKHR’s work. Being a part of the AFAD family helps NKHR more comprehensively advocate for the abductees and their families. Aligning with the international community contextualizes North Korea’s abductions of foreign nationals within a global problem of enforced disappearances. Indeed, around the world, enforced disappearance is considered a human rights violation and crime against humanity.

NKHR is grateful to be a part of AFAD and to have participated in AFAD’s leadership training.  NKHR continues to stand with AFAD in calling for an end to enforced disappearances worldwide. NKHR and AFAD also urge all countries, including South Korea, to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  This is an important first step to ensuing that no more families will have to live with the heartbreak and uncertainty of losing a loved one to disappearance.

AFAD members participating in a leadership activity











[이 게시물은 최고관리자님에 의해 2015-12-22 13:40:07 bbs_active_news에서 복사 됨]