|Press Briefing: the North Korean Archives Project|
On January 31, NKHR organized a coffee briefing at the Seoul Press Center’s Foreign Correspondents Club.
NKHR, in collaboration with the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) in Poland, released the North Korean Archives Project – a specially devoted website https://northkoreanarchives.org/ and publication listing documentation on North Korea amassed by the Polish communist secret apparatus on DPRK (North Korea) between 1950s and 1990s.The project aims to continue with North Korean Archives from other countries belonging to the European Network of Authorities in Charge of the Secret Police Files.
The North Korean Archives Project opens with the index of documentation of the Polish civilian and military communist secret service which covers several areas, including the Korean War, the socio-political situation on the Korean Peninsula, activities of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission and the military capability of the DPRK, bilateral agreements between communist Poland and DPRK, and collaboration of the communist security apparatus of the two countries.
The early archives from 1951~1953 contain over 200 personal files and photographs of Korean War orphans in Poland and American and British Prisoners of Korean War held in North Korea. During the Korean War and soon after signing of the Korean Armistice, thousands of Korean youth gathered around the Peninsula were sent to communist countries in Europe. Among them, at least 1,500~1,700 youth were sent to Poland. It was a plan by Kim Il Sung and Stalin to mobilize the Soviet Bloc for the Korean War effort and prepare Korean youth for war and post-war communist efforts. For many of these youths, their fate after their return to North Korea remains unknown.
The Polish Archives of the communist secret apparatus, including those on North Korea, have been opened to the victims, researchers and journalists. “Thanks to the opening of the communist Archives in Poland and other post-communist countries, we are now able to glean lessons from the operations of the communist security apparatus and its involvement in severe human rights violations,” said Rafał Leśkiewicz, co-author of the Project from the IPN side. “IPN has also been granted the prerogatives of investigating Nazi and Communist crimes, searches for execution and secret burial sites of the victims of communist repression, education, research, and vetting of personnel applying for high-rank state posts for any past involvement in the institutions of the communist repression.”
Joanna Hosaniak at the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, which prepared the English and Korean website and publication, said that: “This project is dedicated to the young generations of North and South Koreans interested in the processes of truth-seeking, truth-telling, memorialization and justice, with a hope that that young generations of Koreans will be able to apply knowledge of history and operations of communist-type security apparatus to future retribution, fact-finding and providing assistance to victims in the accountability process in North Korea.”
This is especially important since the secret police, known as the Ministry of State Security in North Korea, continues to play a central role in the commitment of crimes against humanity even today in North Korea, as documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry for DPRK in 2014”, she added.