We are delighted to present to you the second annual PNKHR Intercollegiate Conference on North Korean Human Rights.
The 2013 PNKHR Conference will be held from
November 22-23
Robertson 100 (Dodds Auditorium)

Inline image 1

We have an absolutely phenomenal line-up featuring the world’s leading experts on North Korean human rights, featuring
Shin Dong Hyuk,
North Korean defector described by the United Nations
as the “single strongest voice” on North Korean atrocities.
 David Hawk,
former Executive Director of Amnesty International USA,
and former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.
 Greg Scarlatoiu,
current Director of the Committee for Human Rights.
 Hannah Song,
current President and CEO of LiNK (Liberty in North Korea)
 and more! 
The PNKHR Board has worked long and hard to bring this event to Princeton. We very much look forward to your enthusiasm and support for our biggest event of the year!!

PNHKR CONFERENCE: North Korea in Transition

On November 16th-17th, PNKHR will be hosting its first intercollegiate conference, North Korea in Transition!

It’s going to be a really great series of events, and we’d love to see you there.  Here’s a rundown of some of the main events:


4.30pm A Look Inside North Korea

Talk with Jinju Pottenger, Princeton ’10, who taught English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

7.30pm Stories from North Korea

Hear the stories of Eunju Kim and Bogeum Han, two defectors from North Korea


12pm Panel Discussion: North Korea in Transition

Representatives from the State Department and the South Korean government, ambassadors, journalists, and academics will be discussing their take on the recent change in leadership in North Korea

There will also be group discussions, movie screenings, and more! Take this opportunity to learn more about North Korea and discuss current issues with fellow students from around the country.  We will have participants from Wellesley, UChicago, BU, Brown, Duke, NYU, UPenn, and more, coming all the way to Princeton to speak with other interested students.

Sounds interesting, right? Register using this link if you are a Princeton student and this link if you are not a Princeton student to reserve your place to attend the conference! Registration is completely free.

“China Stops Forcible Repatriation of North Korean Refugees”

translated by Raymond Ha

The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri reported on April 18th that the Chinese government has accepted the South Korean government’s request to stop the forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees.

Yomiuri, quoting multiple sources within China, said that China had recently stopped repatriating North Korean refugees, though it is unclear exactly when the decision was made. It cited an official in Liaoning province, who said that China, which had repatriated as many as 30 refugees per day after the death of Kim Jong-Il in December, had recently stopped the repatriation of refugees.

Another Chinese official stated that North Korea had failed to inform the Chinese government in detail of the missile launch on the 13th, which indicates that the decision to stop the repatriation of refugees was meant to express disapproval at North Korea’s lack of consideration for its regional ally.

The South Korean government, along with international human rights organizations, has consistently pressured the Chinese government to stop the forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees. China, contrary to its actions, had claimed that it dealt with refugees in a manner consistent with domestic laws, international laws and humanitarian principles.
Earlier this month, China permitted five North Korean refugees to leave for South Korea. The refugees had been protected by South Korean diplomats for three years.
At the Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul in late March, Chinese President Hu Jintao assured President Lee Myung-Bak that China would respect South Korea’s stance with regards to the North Korean refugees. It seems that China has adopted a more flexible attitude towards the issue in line with this statement.


From Thirty-one to Zero

by Xiaonan April Hu

As college students, most of us skip meals regularly in favor of naps or work, so when I signed up for 31-for-31, I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. 31 hours was basically a day and a half, which was what—four meals starting at noon? Eh, no problem. I figured since I never eat breakfast anyways, it was really more like skipping three meals.

At around hour eleven, I realized that I had a huge problem. I was hungry. My stomach gurgled incessantly, and every time someone with food strolled past, my eyes gleamed with homicidal intent. I couldn’t pay any attention in class. Going to bed hungry and waking up hungry was awful. I tried to console myself by thinking that food was only T-minus however many hours away, but that just seemed to make the wait so much more interminable. I tried to cheer myself up by saying it was for a good cause, but by hour twenty-two, nothing mattered except for my all-encompassing hunger; it devoured my mind.

After hour 31, I should have felt victorious. I didn’t. When I grabbed all the food I could in Wilcox, I felt strangely guilty. For thirty-one hours, I shared in the hunger pangs and the madness that so many people in North Korea are forced to endure every day. My first bite of buttered toast was the knife that severed my connection to them.

I was eating a feast to celebrate my having undergone thirty-one hours of calculated fasting.

It felt so fake all of a sudden. When I was starving, it was as if I could understand the North Koreans. Now that it was over, I would go back to wasting food, skipping meals and damaging my body without care, and taking all of it for granted.

Or so I thought. Those moments of absolute hunger were the moments that I felt most alive, like I existed on a different plane outside of the Orange Bubble of complacency. Since then, I haven’t forgotten that feel of madness, nor have I forgotten the people I joined the fast for.  

Their story of hunger is a universal story. We are all human, and we should all seek to understand in some part the suffering that people halfway across the globe endure. North Korean refugees are not just North Korean refugees; they are the people we could have been were it not for a stroke of luck that led us to America.

As we move on with our lives, we should never forget this one truth. We should never stop striving to do right by the billions of people still suffering on the planet that all of us call home.

31 for 31 in the Making

by Kristen Kim

While interning at Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR), Anji, YunSuk, and I were exposed to many shocking truths about the deteriorating state of human rights in North Korea as well as the difficulties that North Korean defectors face even after escaping the country. The latter was especially surprising to us because we had naively assumed that once North Koreans reached freedom, they would be able to adjust seamlessly into a better, more comfortable lifestyle. Instead, we learned that North Korean defectors often live in a third country, such as China, for significant periods of time before entering South Korea or other destinations. Because China had a policy of forced repatriation of defectors until very recently, the defectors would live in hiding for fear of being caught by Chinese authorities. If they were caught and sent back to North Korea, they and their families faced severe punishment and most likely the death penalty.

Compelled to share what we learned with the Princeton community, we formed PNKHR and have been actively raising awareness about North Korean human rights through various events. By far, the most rewarding of these activities was our 31-hour fast for the thirty-one North Korean refugees whom China repatriated this past March, or “31 for 31.” From noon on Tuesday, April 10th to the evening of Wednesday, April 11th, over fifty Princeton students participated in 31 for 31 to help PNKHR accomplish our three-fold goal of fasting, filming, and fundraising. Though it is impossible to truly experience what it would be like to starve in North Korea, we decided to deliberately abstain from eating food in order to get a sense of the hunger of the North Koreans who have to worry about food on a day-to-day basis.

In addition to fasting, we filmed participants throughout the thirty-one hours and interviewed them about their personal experiences. We also asked individuals to film themselves using their own cameras, computers, or phones. The purpose of this was to obtain raw documentation of the participants’ experiences and all that they were feeling and learning throughout the fast. PNKHR plans to put the clips together in the form of a short documentary film and to upload and circulate it via the Internet. This is our attempt at raising awareness at other universities around the United States as well as in South Korea about North Korean human rights and the potential impact that students can have.

Finally, throughout the fast, we aimed to fundraise at least $2000 – the money necessary for NKHR to bring a defector in China to safe harbor. Each participant sought sponsors to support them financially for the fast by asking friends, family, Princeton staff and faculty, and other contacts. In addition, on the second day of the fast, we set up a booth Frist to tell students about 31 for 31, the recent repatriation of the thirty-one refugees. We also explained our goal of $2000 and gave them the opportunity to contribute by buying a PNKHR t-shirt or giving us a donation.

When we first announced our ambitious goal to our participants, many were skeptical that we could accomplish this on a college campus and in such a short span of time. To be honest, even those of us on the PNKHR board were not sure that we could do it. However, thanks to the generous contributions from our sponsors, we were amazingly able to reach and even exceed our goal. The participants are thrilled to have made a very tangible impact on the life of a North Korean defector hiding in China.

As a new student group, it was highly encouraging to see the level of enthusiasm PNKHR was able to generate through 31 for 31 on our campus, especially among non-Korean Americans who tend to be less familiar with North Korean human rights issues. We hope that through our continued efforts, we can keep up this campus-wide conversation about North Korean human rights and move more and more students to join us in bringing change to North Korea both during and beyond our college years.

The Role of South Korean Government in North Korean Refugees’ Resettlement

by Jee Eun “Jean” Lee

Last March, PNKHR invited the Daegu Hana Center Director, Mr. Heo Young Chul, to speak on North Korean refugees’ resettlement process in South Korea. His lecture expanded my understanding of the issue at various levels. In particular, the troubling narratives of North Korean refugees revealed the multidimensionality of problems that they confront in South Korea.

The difficulties of adjusting to life in South Korea experienced by North Korean refugees have drawn the attention of scholars from across academic disciplines. Political scientists, for instance, see the refugees as witnesses of the atrocities of the North Korean regime and find their socialist-cultural background to be the primary reason for their struggles. Others, including psychologists, regard the traumatic experiences of the famine in North Korea and escapee life in China as the immediate causes. These two major lines of research share the assumption that the North Koreans’ individual backgrounds are the fundamental cause of their adjustment problems.

However, this intense scrutiny of North Korean refugees overlooks the role of the South Korean government. Every North Korean refugee is required to participate in the government’s two-month Hanawon orientation program, which has the potential to significantly shape the resettlement experience. For a complete understanding of the North Koreans’ resettlement story, it is important to see the process not as an individual matter of self-construction, but an institutional project of Hanawon, in which not only the newcomers but also the government and civil society play a critical role. Too often, Hanawon’s program is not sufficient to bridge the cultural cleavage between the two societies. Therefore, the role of Hana Centers in local communities, such as vocational training and cultural training, becomes truly important. The newcomers’ experience in South Korea can be much more positively shaped with the true concern and effort of the host community at their incorporation.


by YunSuk Michael Chung

The beginnings of PNKHR can be traced to a small office located at the heart of Seoul, Korea. Tucked away in a narrow alley, it houses Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, a non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 1996. It was there that Anji, Kristen, and I chose to spend the summer of 2011 through the generosity of the International Internship Program.

At first, I was not sure what I could contribute to the organization. While a law school student was researching North Korean criminal law, I translated invitation letters for a benefit concert. While another intern was preparing to appear in front of a congressional committee, I carried hundreds of those invitation letters to the post office. Yet, as the summer ended, I realized how much I became immersed in the organization. Although I may not have been an integral part of the team, my efforts did not go to waste.

In a way, the time I spent with PNKHR resembles my internship experience. When Anji and Kristen told me about their plan to start a new student group and asked me to join, I admittedly had my doubts as to what we could accomplish. Our first event was handing out free snacks at Frist Center to strangers. At the time, we couldn’t even decide on whether PNKHR should be pronounced “pinker” or not.

Still, we stuck to the goal of hosting an event every month. We invited a North Korean refugee from New York and the director of Hana resettlement center from Daegu, Korea. While our events drew small crowds, I was excited to see that they came from diverse backgrounds. The year culminated with a 31-hour fast, through which we raised over $2,000 to rescue a North Korean refugee living underground in China.

Perhaps, all it takes to “make a difference” is a passion that is firmly tucked inside our hearts and like-minded friends to share it with. I am truly grateful to PNKHR for helping me to find both.