2018 HRC Awards Honor Two Global Human Rights Activists

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presented awards from the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security to (from left to right) Nadia Murad, Wai Wai Nu and Lyse Doucet for their efforts in advancing women’s role in creating a more peaceful and secure world.

January 31, 2018 – Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke in Georgetown’s Gaston Hall Feb. 5 on the importance of women’s leadership in advancing human rights, justice and peace.

Hillary Clinton with stained-glass window behind her

She also presented the 2018 Hillary Rodham Clinton awards, bestowed annually by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security to individuals advancing women’s role in creating a more peaceful and secure world.

This year’s awardees are Nadia Murad, a former ISIS captive, and Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya activist and former political prisoner from Myanmar. Both women have overcome tremendous personal adversity and become powerful voices for women’s rights in conflict.


Murad is now a Yazidi human rights activist and United Nations’ Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. Nu works as a civil society advocate for human rights, democracy and peace in Myanmar.

A special Global Trailblazer Award was presented by Clinton to BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet for her courageous reporting on war and her efforts to spotlight the impact of conflict on women and children.

Last year, the awards were presented to four Colombians who ensured women’s voices were included in that nation’s peace agreement with the FARC.


Clinton is the honorary founding chair of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

She launched the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown six years ago.

GIWPS, led by former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, examines and highlights the roles and experiences of women in peace and security efforts worldwide through cutting-edge research, global convening and strategic partnerships.

In partnership with the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, GIWPS has created an index that draws on recognized international data sources to rank 153 countries on women’s wellbeing.

Nadia Murad

Hillary Clinton Award | 02/05/2018

headshot of Human rights activist Nadia Murad Basee Taha

Nadia Murad is a Yazidi activist and human rights champion.

In 2014, the Islamic State attacked Nadia’s village in Iraq’s Sinjar region. That day, she witnessed the murders of her mother and brothers at the hands of the Islamic State, which considers the Yazidis to be ‘infidels.’ Nadia, was kidnapped and enslaved as a sex slave to members of the Islamic State. That year, around 7,000 Yazidi women and girls were abducted by the Islamic State.

Nadia managed to escape from her captives and a nearby family helped her flee from ISIS-controlled territory. She was able to reach a refugee camp in northern Iraq, and thereafter she was selected for a resettlement program in Germany.

Since then, Nadia has testified about her experiences to the United Nations Security Council. She uses her platform to urge the international community to respond to the plight of the Yazidis and other ethno-religious minorities in Iraq. London-based human rights attorney Amal Clooney has taken on Nadia’s case in pressuring the United Nations to investigate the crimes committed against the Yazidis by the Islamic State.

Now a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the first UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, Nadia is a powerful voice for justice for the Yazidis.

Wai Wai Nu

Hillary Clinton Award | 02/05/2018

head shot of Wai Wai

Wai Wai is a leading voice for human rights and peace in Myanmar.

Wai Wai was among thousands of political prisoners detained by Myanmar’s former military regime. Following the sentencing of her father, an opposition MP, the then-18-year-old law student was sentenced to seventeen years in Insein Prison.

Wai Wai served seven years of her sentence, a period that she now refers to as her “University of Life.” Freed in 2012, at the age of 25, she quickly became an agent of change.

She earned her law degree at Yangon East University. She founded two NGOs: Women’s Peace Network-Arakan—an organization that conducts trainings around civic engagement in Rakhine State—and Justice for Women—a network of female lawyers offering legal aid to Burmese women. Through these organizations, Wai Wai aims to bolster peace-building efforts and empower Myanmar’s women and youth through legal counsel and rights education.

Wai Wai is Rohingya. Her viral #MyFriend campaign in 2015, urging social media users to share ‘selfies’ with their friends of diverse racial and religious backgrounds, solidified her reputation as a young human rights activist worldwide. She recently used her platform to persuade the United Nations to conduct a fact-finding mission in Myanmar—though she lobbied for a more intensive Commission of Inquiry—to investigate the persecution of her fellow Rohingya in Myanmar.

White Paper on Human Rights Violations in U.S. in 2017 Issued in DPRK

Pyongyang, January 30 (KCNA) — The DPRK Institute of International Studies Tuesday released the “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in U.S. in 2017”.

According to the white paper, soon after being inaugurated as president, Trump filled the important posts of his administration with billionaires, who had “contributed” to his election campaign, and their mouthpieces.

Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Commerce Ross and also the secretaries of Treasury and Defense are all billionaires from conglomerates. The total assets of public servants at the level of deputy secretary and above of the current administration are worth of 14 billion US$.

The anti-popular policies the Trump administration pursued openly in one year were, without exception, for the interests of a handful of the rich circles.

In the U.S., where genuine freedom of the press and expression does not exist, intervention in and crackdown on the press grew more intensified over the past one year.

In 2017 the cases of searching and confiscation against journalists accounted for 12 and the cases of violation against them for 11. Moreover, 19 persons in the domestic press circles and four foreign journalists were arrested or detained.

Racial discrimination and misanthropy are serious maladies inherent to the social system of the U.S., and they have been aggravated since Trump took office.

The racial violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12 is a typical example of the acme of the current administration’s policy of racism.

In the U.S. the absolute majority of the working masses, deprived of elementary rights to survival, are hovering in the abyss of nightmare.

As a result, during the first week of March, 241 000 persons joined the large contingent of the unemployed; in May 9 000 public servants were fired from governmental agencies; in September the number of the unemployed increased by 33 000 as compared to that of the previous month.

In particular, unemployment of young people has become a matter of serious social concern; currently the unemployment rate of young people under 25 is 7.9%, and 31% of graduates from high schools do not have proper jobs.

According to what the U.S. administration made public, in 2017 the homeless numbered 554 000, about 10% increase as compared to that two years ago, and number of the poor families, living in rented rooms devoid of elementary facilities for living, is on the steady rise.

The soaring school expenses are plunging the students into the hell of loans.

Those who are diagnosed with a disease but cannot afford to pay their medical fees total 50 million. Flu, lung diseases and asthma cause 36 000, 40 000 and 150 000 deaths, respectively, on an annual average.

On the other hand, health-hazardous disqualified products are on sale across the country, which often leads to an outbreak of infectious diseases.

The U.S. is one of the world’s two countries that have yet to embrace paid maternity leave.

Over the past decade the proportion of American women who live below the poverty line has risen from 12.1% to 14.5%, and they usually receive 25% less salary than their male colleagues of the same post.

A woman is sexually abused every 89 seconds.

According to basic statistics, about 61 100 gun-related crimes took place in the U.S. last year, leaving 15 488 dead and 31 058 wounded.

According to data, the number of marijuana users in the U.S. was more than 20 million, a 3% increase as compared with that a decade ago; and over 90 people lose their lives on a daily average from drug abuse.

In the U.S. where crimes and evil are rampant, the number of imprisoned criminals tops 2.3 million and 70 million are ex-offenders.

The U.S., “guardian of democracy” and “human rights champion”, is kicking up the human rights racket but it can never camouflage its true identity as the gross violator of human rights, the white paper said.

In 2014, Six Iranians Arrested for this Video Dancing to “Happy”

From 2014:

Six Iranians arrested for appearing in a video dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy have been sentenced to up to one year in prison and 91 lashes, their lawyer says.

The sentences were suspended for three years, meaning they will not go to prison unless they reoffend, he adds.

The video shows three men and three unveiled women dancing on the streets and rooftops of Tehran. In six months, it has been viewed by over one million people on YouTube. The majority of people involved in the video were sentenced to six months in prison, with one member of the group given one year, lawyer Farshid Rofugaran was quoted by Iran Wire as saying.

Update: Woman in Photo May be Incarcerated: Iconic Photo of Woman Freeing Herself of Hijab Becomes Symbol of Iran Protests

The “Happy we are from Tehran” video was brought to the attention of the Iranian authorities in May, after receiving more than 150,000 views. Members of the group behind the video were subsequently arrested by Iranian police for violating Islamic laws of the country, which prohibit dancing with members of the opposite sex and women from appearing without a headscarf. They later appeared on state-run TV saying they were actors who had been tricked into make the Happy video for an audition.

The arrests drew condemnation from international rights groups and sparked a social media campaign calling for their release. Williams, whose song was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year, also protested at the arrests. “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” he wrote on Facebook.

Iran: at least 1,000 detained protesters at risk of torture; Amnesty International

Photo: Protests have spread rapidly across the country since late December © Getty Images via Amnesty International.

 See also:

Iconic Photo of Woman Freeing Herself of Hijab Becomes Symbol of Iran Protests

Protest leaders could face the death penalty for ‘enmity against God’
‘Peaceful protest is a right, and many people in Iran want to exercise that right’ – Philip Luther

The Iranian authorities must ensure the right to peaceful protest, investigate reports that security forces have unlawfully used firearms against unarmed protesters, and protect hundreds of detainees from torture, Amnesty International said today amid concerns that the crackdown against demonstrations in the country is intensifying.

Official statements have confirmed that at least 22 people, including two security officers, have been killed since 28 December, when thousands of Iranians began flocking to the streets to speak out against poverty, corruption and political repression.

Videos and eyewitness testimonies have emerged on social media and media outlets showing or describing riot police and other security forces using excessive and unnecessary force, including firing ammunition at unarmed protesters, beating protesters with truncheons and using tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrations. Amnesty has not been able to verify the videos or witness accounts.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested and detained in jails notorious for torture and other ill-treatment over the past seven days, with many denied access to their families and lawyers. The Human Rights Activist News Agency has reported that in Tehran’s Evin prison alone, the authorities registered at least 423 detainees during 31 December and 1 January.

Many of the hundreds of detainees are believed to be held in overcrowded conditions in the “quarantine section” of Evin prison, which only has capacity for approximately 180 people. This area is where detainees are often held shortly after arrest and checked to see if they’re carrying drugs or infections before transfer to a general ward. Some have been transferred to sections of the prison that are run by the Revolutionary Guards or Ministry of Intelligence.

Most of the demonstrations appear to have been peaceful, but in some cases violence by protesters has erupted, including stone-throwing, acts of arson and other damage to buildings, vehicles and other property.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research and Advocacy Director, said:

“All detainees should be protected from torture and other ill-treatment.

“Given the alarming scale of the current wave of arrests, it is highly likely that many of those held are peaceful protesters who have been detained arbitrarily and now find themselves in prisons where conditions are dire and torture is a common tool to extract confessions and punish dissidents.

“Those suspected of criminal conduct should be promptly charged with a recognisable criminal offence and tried in proceedings which meet international standards for fair trial or released. Their legal status and exact whereabouts should also be immediately disclosed to their families.

“The Iranian government must promptly launch an effective and independent investigation into the killings and other reports of excessive or unnecessary force, and bring all those responsible for human rights violations to justice.”

Protest leaders could face the death penalty

Despite President Hassan Rouhani’s assurance on 30 December that protesters have the right to criticise the government, the authorities’ subsequent rhetoric has suggested they intend to respond to the unrest in an increasingly ruthless manner.

On 1 January, Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani demanded a “strong approach” from “all prosecutors”.

On 2 January, the Head of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Mousa Ghanzafar Abadi, warned that the Ministry of Interior had declared the protests illegal and that those who continued to engage in protests would face severe penalties. He threatened that the protest leaders and organisers could be charged with “enmity against God”, which is punishable by the death penalty, “as they are connected with foreign intelligence services and are implementing their agendas”. The same day, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Sayed Ali Khamenei, accused the country’s “enemies” of stirring the protests.

On 3 January, Iran’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, said the popular social messaging application Telegram would remain blocked unless it agreed to remove “terrorist content”. Telegram’s CEO has said it has refused the authorities’ request to shut down channels that peacefully promote and support the protests.  Instagram also remains blocked. On 31 December, Mr Jahromi had said the blocking of access to Telegram and Instagram, which began that day, would be temporary.

The authorities’ aggressive rhetoric has been accompanied by state-sanctioned media outlets publishing a wanted list of protesters with their faces showing, and calling on members of the public to identify and report them to the authorities.

Philip Luther added:

“The Iranian authorities have an appalling track record of carrying out mass arbitrary arrests of peaceful demonstrators.

“The escalation in the intimidation of protesters and the grossly disproportionate restrictions imposed on the right to freedom of expression online over recent days heightens fears that the Iranian authorities may resort to increasingly heavy-handed tactics to crush dissenting voices.

“Peaceful protest is a right, and many people in Iran want to exercise that right. Instead of opting for repression and absurdly accusing protesters of collusion in foreign-orchestrated plots, the Iranian authorities should address their own record of failure to respect a range of civil, political, economic and social rights.”

Mashhad protests

Since 28 December, protests that started in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, have spread to some 40 locations across Iran. Slogans chanted at the demonstrations have expressed a mix of economic and political grievances – ranging from complaints over poverty, high unemployment, corruption and inequality – to demands for the release of political prisoners and outright rejection of the ruling political system, which some protesters have denounced as a “clerical dictatorship”. Iran has not seen protests on this scale since those following 2009’s disputed presidential election. Then, more than 100 protesters were killed and thousands suffered arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as torture and other ill-treatment.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party, upholds the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

Religious Freedom Act Violations: Annual Designation by US State Dept. Released

Today, the Department of State announces that the Secretary of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017. The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom.

Designations Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998

Press Statement

Heather Nauert
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 4, 2018

In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. Today, a number of governments infringe upon individuals’ ability to adopt, change, or renounce their religion or belief, worship in accordance with their religion or beliefs, or be free from coercion to practice a particular religion or belief.

In accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the Secretary of State annually designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as “Countries of Particular Concern”. Today, the Department of State announces that the Secretary of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017. The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom.

The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity. These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries. We recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; we welcome these initiatives and look forward to continued dialogue. The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and religious leaders to advance religious freedom around the world.

Sex Slavery/Comfort Woman Issue May Be Reopened Between Japan & South Korea

Photo: Japan was highly offended when a “Comfort Woman” was introduced to President Donald Trump at the South Korean State Banquet held for Trump in November, 2017. The appearance of “Comfort Woman” Lee Yong Soo prompted Japan to file a diplomatic protest against South Korea.

Comfort Woman Invited to Trump’s State Dinner in S. Korea Causes Japanese Outrage

South Korean ruling party chief calls for new agreement on Japan’s wartime sexual slavery

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Yonhap) — The leader of the ruling Democratic Party on Friday called for a new agreement to settle the long-simmering dispute over Japan’s wartime sexual slavery in a way acceptable to the victims.

Choo Mi-ae made the remarks a day after President Moon Jae-in criticized the 2015 deal between Seoul and Tokyo as seriously flawed, as the negotiations failed to reflect the opinions of the victims and the citizens.

“We need a new agreement that can be accepted by the victims,” Choo said during a meeting with senior party officials. “An agreement that aims to cover up the truth rather than uncovering it cannot be an (acceptable) agreement.”
Choo Mi-ae, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party, speaks during a meeting with senior party officials at the National Assembly in Seoul on Dec. 29, 2017. (Yonhap)

Choo Mi-ae, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party, speaks during a meeting with senior party officials at the National Assembly in Seoul on Dec. 29, 2017. (Yonhap)

She then urged Japan not to respond “emotionally” to the recent review of the deal by the foreign ministry’s task force, which concluded parts of the deal were kept secret to apparently avoid criticism of Seoul’s concessions to Tokyo.

“Japan should refrain from emotionally responding and reflect on how it can resolve the issue in a way that serves its national interests,” she said. “I urge Japan to act in a way that befits Japan’s national prestige.”

Tensions flared anew between the two neighbors after Seoul re-examined the bilateral deal reached under the former Park Geun-hye administration to settle the issue involving Korean women who were forced by Japan to serve at front-line military brothels during World War II.

Moon, who took office in May, has said that the agreement is “emotionally” unacceptable to Korean citizens.

Under the deal announced on Dec. 28, 2015, they agreed to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the sex slavery issue, while Tokyo apologized for its colonial-era atrocities and agreed to contribute 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) to a foundation dedicated to supporting the victims.

The deal, however, prompted strong criticism from victims and civic groups who claim that Japan’s apology was not sincere enough and that the government did not consult with them. Some call for renegotiating or even scrapping the deal.

Stand up for Human Rights-United Nations Invites Your Participation Here

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 
Multilingual Video Collection

Logo of the 70th anniverssary of the declaration.

Stand up for Human Rights – Add Your Voice!

In the lead-up to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2018, join us in standing up for human rights!

Human rights are everyone’s rights. Help spread the word, in your own language.

Record yourself reading one of the 30 articles of the Declaration in any of the 135 languages currently available on this site and share your video with your friends.

Our goal is to raise awareness of the Declaration by collecting and promoting videos of as many articles as possible in as many languages as possible.

Thank you for participating. It starts with you.#StandUp4HumanRights #RightsOutLoud

Make and upload your own recording here:


Resolution on Human Rights in the DPRK, co-tabled by Japan & European Union (EU)

Adoption of the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the Third Committee of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
(Statement by Foreign Minister Taro Kono of japan)

  1. 1. Japan welcomes the fact that on November 15, 2017 (November 14 local time), at the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly currently being held in New York, the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, co-tabled by Japan and the European Union (EU), was adopted by consensus (The resolution has been adopted for 13 consecutive years).

    2. Based on last year’s United Nations General Assembly resolution reflecting the final report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK presented in February 2014 (PDF), the resolution this year condemns the North Korea’s systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations, and urges the North Korea to urgently take measures to end all human rights violations. In addition, the resolution underscores very serious concerns regarding reports of torture, summary executions, arbitrary detention, abductions and other forms of human rights violations and abuses that North Korea commits against citizens from other countries within and outside of its territory. The resolution also condemns North Korea for diverting its resources into pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles over the welfare of its people. Furthermore, the resolution encourages the United Nations Security Council to take appropriate actions, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and consideration of the further development of sanctions.

    3. The consensus adoption of the resolution demonstrates the international community’s grave concerns about human rights violations in North Korea, including the abductions issue. Japan continues to strongly urge North Korea to sincerely accept the views of the international community expressed in this resolution and take concrete action towards improving the situation of human rights including the early resolution of the abductions issue and cooperation with the international community.

North Korean Defector: Return DPRK to State Sponsored Terrorism List

Thae Yong-Ho, Photo Courtesy Zhang Wei, Voice of America.

On November 2, 2017 House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) issued the following statement urging the administration to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism:

“The North Korean regime’s murderous torture of Otto Warmbier and assassination of Kim Jong Nam are just two examples of a consistent pattern of recent terrorist activities. Before the committee this week, Thae Yong-ho, a high-ranking North Korean defector, endorsed relisting North Korea as a state sponsor of terror. So I urge the administration to take quick action. There is simply no reason for further delay of this decision.”

Note: Chairman Royce’s H.R. 3364 – signed into law on August 2, 2017 – required the administration to determine within 90 days whether North Korea meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

On November 1, 2017, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs listened to the testimony of Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranking North Korean defector to ever testify before the House of Representatives. Thae joined the Foreign Ministry in 1988 after receiving degrees in international politics and English from Pyongyang and Beijing Universities. His most recent position was in London, where he was minister and deputy chief of mission from 2013 to 2016, when he defected to South Korea.

Thae began his two and one half hour testimony with a prepared statement

Major points:

Thae worked on the frontline of North Korean diplomacy as the former Deputy Chief of Mission of North Korea. He defected to South Korea in 2016.

Thae lived a life of privilege in comparison to the average North Korean who may deal with oppression and hunger. “I went through elite educational courses in North Korea, which could not even be dreamed of by ordinary citizens there. At the age of 14, I was sent to China for a special elite educational program. More than 20 years of the past 55 years of my life, were very privileged by North Korean standards. I lived and worked in foreign countries such as China, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The North Korean system provided me with all kinds of political privileges and economic benefits during this time and, in the course of my last posting, I was fortunate enough to live in the UK with my wife and two sons. Throughout my life, my family members and relatives were all dedicated true communists.”

So why did he defect? His reasons are two-fold. First, his two sons were educated in the UK with complete exposure to freedom of thought and information: “I could not force my sons to pretend to be loyal to Kim Jong Un and the North Korean system and to shout ‘long live the supreme leader Kim Jong Un!,’ ‘long live the socialist paradise of the DPRK’ – like I did all my life.”

Second, Thae lived as “a modern-day slave… leading a ceaseless double-life, which was psychologically difficult. I had to pretend to be loyal to the Kim Jong Un regime, even though my heart did not agree. I often was asked questions by my British friends which caught me flat footed. Trying to justify the North Korean system when, deep down, I knew their concerns were fair and legitimate. They asked me things such as:

  • How could Kim Jong Un persecute his own uncle?
  • Why does North Korea continue to appeal for humanitarian aid while pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into its nuclear and missile development?
  • Communism has always opposed a dynastic transfer of power, so how then does the Kim family’s hereditary leadership system prevail so long in North Korea?”

These doubts, of course, could lead to persecution, prison camp or death: “Indeed, if it is discovered that a senior elite may have different ideas or express private dissatisfactions, then he or she could be subject to persecution. And as you all know, even the members of the Kim’s family have been subject to this type of persecution. Such was the case with the killing of Kim Jung Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek and half-brother Kim Jong Nam. Beyond these high-profile incidents, much more has been going on beneath the surface over the past five years, hundreds of cadres have been persecuted without due process. For example, the families of former North Korean Ambassadors to Cuba and Malaysia were sent to prison camps and nobody knows whether they are now alive or dead.”

Thae says changes in NK over the past five years show signs the Kim Jong Un regime is weakening:

Free markets are flourishing, threatening the state owned socialist economic system.

The welfare system of North Korea has long collapsed and millions of civil servants, army officers, and security forces are dependent on bribes and state asset embezzlement for their survival.

The citizens do not care about state propaganda but increasingly watch illegally imported South Korean movies and dramas. Until now, the North Korean system has prevailed through an effective and credible reign of terror and by almost perfectly preventing the free-flow of outside information.

“These changes, however, make it increasingly possible to think about civilian uprising in North Korea. As more and more people gradually become informed about the reality of their living conditions, the North Korean government will either have to change and adapt in positive ways for its citizens, or to face the consequences of their escalating dissatisfaction.”

Understanding the goals  and mindset of Kim Jong Un:

Today, Kim Jong Un thinks that only nuclear weapons and ICBMs can help him avert the continuing disintegration of the North Korean system.

He also thinks that the existence of a prosperous and democratic South Korea so close to the border is, by itself, a major threat towards his dynasty.

While Kim Jong Un has already long had the tools to destroy South Korea effectively, he also believes it is necessary to drive American forces out of the peninsula.

And this can be done, he believes, by being able to credibly threaten the continental United States with nuclear weapons.

Recommendations going forward:

It will take some time to assess the effectiveness of the current economic sanctions and campaign of diplomatic isolation. Thae recommends we continue the momentum and even expand targeted sanctions until the North Korean regime comes back to the dialogue table for denuclearization.

Second, strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance: “The US and ROK Governments should enhance the level of their coordination and communication under the slogan of ‘We go together.’”

It is a long established dialogue strategy of North Korea to exclude South Korea while communicating only with the US. The US and South Korean Governments should frustrate this North Korea strategy through strong concerted co-ordination.

Use Soft Power Techniques before military options:

Meet with Kim Jong Un: “It is necessary to reconsider whether we have tried all non-military options before we decide that military action against North Korea is all that is left. Before any military action is taken, I think it is necessary to meet Kim Jong Un at least once to understand his thinking and to try to convince him that he would be destroyed if he continues his current direction.”

Educate the North Korean population to stand up to the regime by disseminating outside information—much more needs to be done to increase the flow of information into North Korea. “The U.S. is spending billions of dollars to cope with the military threat. Yet how much does the U.S. spend each year on information activities involving North Korea in a year?”

Open Chinese borders to defectors: Some 30,000 North Korea defectors have come to South Korea. In China, however, tens of thousands of North Korean defectors are living without papers, under the shadows, and are being physically or sexually exploited. US should do more to stop Beijing repatriating defectors back to North Korea.

Enhance military preparedness: “Frankly, Kim Jong Un is not fully aware of the strength and might of American military power.”

Also, “Kim Jong Un genuinely believes that he can break the sanctions regime apart once he compels Washington to accept North Korea’s new status after successfully completing the development of his ICBM program and putting the new missiles into deployment.”

During the Q&A period of the hearing, Thae answered questions from committee members:

Terror List:

The current regime under Kim Jong Un is a reign of terror comparable to crimes committed by the Nazis. The current sanctions are good, but they are not enough as NK maintains a stockpile of supplies. However, these rations will only be given to the elite. (Malnutrition and famine have already decreased the height of the average North Korean by 10 cm.) Placing NK back on the state sponsored terror list would help drive NK out of the international financial systems and cut off funding for further nuclear development.

Mount Paetku, Portrayed as the birthplace site of Kim Jong Il, Courtesy DPRK Tourism


We must understand that North Koreans truly believe Kim Jong Un and his entire dynasty are divine. North Koreans truly believe this and are brainwashed from an early age. The belief in Kim Jong Un as a god makes it easier to convince North Koreans that they should be willing to die for him. Information smuggled into North Korea to prove he is human would help the citizens to unite against him. For example, North Koreans do not know Kim Jong Un is the third son of his father and it is likely his own grandfather didn’t even know of his existence. He was raised and educated in Switzerland and no one knows the true year of his birth.

Mr. Thae: “The Kim Jong Un regime established a full-scale, stupid brainwashing system depicting Kim Jong Un as a god. So I think we should try to concentrate our efforts to educate North Korean people that Kim Jong Un is not a god. He is just a normal human being.”


U.S. broadcasting efforts are critical. Information smuggled into the country should include American TV through small devices. Content should be tailored for each class of North Korean citizen. (There are three classes.) Regardless of class, North Koreans need to know “very simple tailor-made content which can tell the basic concepts of freedom, human rights and democracy.” Currently, movies do come in on SD cards, also referred to as nose cards, because young North Koreans conceal them in their nostrils. The risks are that public executions have been held for simply watching South Korea movies.

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in China (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The Problem of China:

The Chinese government must support economic sanctions against North Korea and stop sending defectors back to North Korea for torture and labor enforcement or even death. The Chinese must open a route to defection which could allow a mass exodus to occur. The Chinese should set up temporary refugee camps to hold defectors safely until they can continue on to South Korea where they will be welcomed.

Also, China continues to trade with North Korea, especially with the purchase of coal, primarily through unofficial smuggling networks. North Korea trucks carrying ICBMs are Chinese-made, supposedly to support the timber industry. China could use these same smuggling routes and techniques to smuggle in information.


Thae says, “It’s not a paradise…it is the worst inhuman system in human history.” The system of classification is similar to the feudal class system. It is not a socialist welfare system as it portrays itself. Citizens do not know what fair payment is for work. Sometimes salaries do not even cover the cost of food. Sexual exploitation also exists in which young girls are chosen to work for the family.

25 Aug 2010 – “Storax Sedan” underground nuclear test – July 1962
Storax Sedan (yield 104 kt) – shallow underground nuclear test conducted by the United States on 6 July 1962 at Nevada Test Site. The main purpose of the detonation was to asses the non military dimension of a nuclear explosion. Image in the public domain
Photo: The Official CTBTO Photostream


Who is helping them with developing nukes? North Korea has been studying the development of nuclear weapons since the late 1950s under the tutelage of the former Soviet Union. Thae does not know of the need for any outside help at this time.

The purpose of the nuclear program is to put preserve the regime. Kim believes nukes will guarantee his rule and will drive the US from the Korean peninsula through what is essentially blackmail. He believes that once he can successfully prove he can strike the US with a nuclear weapon, the US will pull out of South Korea. Thae says South Koreans are already moving further away from the DMZ, knowing that most successful missiles are only short range at this time.


The proliferation of nuclear weapons and the ramping up of terror have caused more elites and diplomats to defect than ever before. Elites need to be enticed to leave through specially arranged deals that will help collapse the regime. Thae estimates that the elite (“the core class”) make up about 25 percent of the total population, which would amount to less than 10 thousand people. He noted that even though many people have a high ranking in society, they still do not have free access to information and would have to be educated. He estimates only 300 to 400 people control the country, and these are the only ones with access to world news, Internet, etc.


Soft power should be used to pressure other countries to expel North Korean diplomats.

US State Department State Sponsors of Terrorism

Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

Designation under the above-referenced authorities also implicates other sanctions laws that penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with state sponsors. Currently there are three countries designated under these authorities: Iran, Sudan, and Syria.

Country Designation Date
Iran January 19, 1984
Sudan August 12, 1993
Syria December 29, 1979

North Korea: Killings, torture, arbitrary detention, rape, forced abortions: Human Rights Report

This report continues to shine a spotlight on the serious human rights abuses committed by the Government of North Korea, including those involving extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence inside the country. Many of the country’s human rights abuses underwrite the regime’s weapons program, including forced labor in the form of mass mobilizations, re-education through labor camps, and overseas labor contracts. Thousands of North Koreans are sent abroad every year to work in slave-like conditions, earning revenue for the regime.

Report on Serious Human Rights Abuses and Censorship in North Korea

October 26, 2017

Section 304 (a) of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, Public Law 114-122, enacted on February 18, 2016, requires that the Secretary of State provide a report to Congress every 180 days that: (1) identifies each person the Secretary determines to be responsible for serious human rights abuses or censorship in North Korea and describes the conduct of that person; and (2) describes serious human rights abuses or censorship undertaken by the Government of the DPRK or any person acting for or on behalf of the DPRK in the most recent year ending before the submission of the report. The report is being submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Financial Services, and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate.

This report continues to shine a spotlight on the serious human rights abuses committed by the Government of North Korea, including those involving extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence inside the country. Many of the country’s human rights abuses underwrite the regime’s weapons program, including forced labor in the form of mass mobilizations, re-education through labor camps, and overseas labor contracts. Thousands of North Koreans are sent abroad every year to work in slave-like conditions, earning revenue for the regime.

In addition, the regime’s efforts to control North Koreans’ freedom of movement and access to information reach far beyond its sovereign boundaries. The government deploys security officials on assignments overseas to monitor the activities of North Koreans abroad and to forcibly repatriate individuals seeking asylum abroad.

This report details aspects of the human rights situation in North Korea and the conduct of relevant persons, including those determined by the Secretary of State to be responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses or censorship in the DPRK.

The Military Security Command (MSC) monitors military personnel for anti-regime activity and investigates political crimes in the military. According to the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation in the DPRK, it is “the military’s own secret police.” While technically part of the Korean People’s Army General Staff Department, the MSC reports to the Ministry of State Security. In practice, its jurisdiction extends beyond the military to ordinary citizens of the DPRK, as well. COI witnesses have stated that the MSC extracts information through torture and those accused of political crimes can be executed without trial by the MSC. Defectors and numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) report that the MSC operates special prison camps where military personnel are held indefinitely without trial for political offenses.

Jo Kyong-Chol is the commander of the MSC. According to NGO reports, he is responsible for human rights abuses in the DPRK’s defense-industrial complex. Jo is also responsible for communication and implementation of state policies, including those involving human rights abuses, passed directly to him by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un to elements of the security apparatus. South Korean media has reported he is considered one of three “angels of death” for his direct involvement in purges soon after Kim Jong Un assumed power, which targeted Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-taek, as well as people close to Jang. According to various NGO and media reports, the purges for which Jang and his associates are responsible involved arbitrary arrest and detention, banishment, and executions conducted without due process. In addition, family members and associates of officials purged with Jang were rounded up and sent to political prison camps without trial.

Sin Yong Il is the deputy director of the MSC. In his capacity as one of four deputies, Sin Yong Il conducts the daily on-the-ground operations for the MSC and has direct knowledge of the special investigations it conducts. He reports to the commander of the MSC, who takes orders directly from Kim Jong Un. According to reports, including reports by foreign governments, he is responsible for tasking and verifying the implementation of orders of censorship, including the crackdown on the flow of foreign information and media devices, and orders to abduct and detain DPRK citizens abroad suspected of seeking asylum.

Jong Yong Su is the minister of labor. In this capacity, he oversees the Ministry of Labor (MOL), which the Department of State identified as responsible for serious human rights abuses in the January 11, 2017, report. As that report notes, the MOL works together with the State Planning Commission (SPC) to implement an economic system based on forced labor. Through the combined efforts of the SPC and the MOL, the government compels lower-class North Koreans to join paramilitary forced labor brigades that essentially serve as slave labor for the regime. According to Human Rights Watch, these brigades work extended periods of time without pay. They are often forced to work up to 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week, with no compensation. In this position, Jong directs the day-to-day activities of the MOL, including direct supervision over the placement of workers in positions of forced labor.

Ri Thae-chol is first vice minister of the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) and a colonel general in the Korean People’s Army. In the July 6, 2016, report, the Department of State identified the MPS as responsible for serious human rights abuses and censorship. Ri reports directly to the minister of people’s security and communicates policies to the rest of the ministry through the chief of staff. Ri directly oversees the 50 bureaus of the MPS as they restrict the freedoms of expression and movement and operate labor camps known for abuse and torture.

Kim Kang Jin is the director of the External Construction Bureau, a DPRK government agency that manages the construction firms that send laborers from the DPRK to work in countries across the world. The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK noted in a February 2017 report that these laborers are reportedly kept under strict supervision by officials from the DPRK and are consequently unable to exercise freedoms of expression, movement, and peaceful assembly. The report further notes that these laborers are subject to “serious violations of international labour standards, including long working hours, delayed and below-minimum-wage payments and lack of safety measures.” The European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea noted in July 2016 that DPRK laborers sent abroad frequently worked exceedingly long shifts for six days a week, yet most of their pay was repatriated back to the DPRK government, rendering them “state-sponsored slaves.” As director of this bureau, Kim sets policies that allow for dangerous working conditions, long hours, and withholding of pay. These directives create a system of forced labor, which constitutes a serious human rights abuse.

Ku Sung Sop (AKA Ku Young Hyok) is the North Korean consul general in Shenyang, China. Prior to serving in this capacity, Ku was the Ministry of State Security director for foreign counterintelligence. According to foreign government reports, Ku’s primary responsibilities in China include surveillance and monitoring of overseas workers, who are forced to work long hours and have their pay withheld by the DPRK government, and supervising the forced repatriation of North Korean asylum seekers in China.

Kim Min Chol is a second secretary at the DPRK embassy in Vietnam and the Ministry of State Security safety representative. Kim’s responsibilities at the embassy include hands-on participation in the forced repatriations from and disappearances in Vietnam of North Korean asylum seekers from the DPRK. According to a foreign government, in 2013, he led the kidnapping of South Korean missionary Kim Jong Wook, who was later sentenced to hard labor in North Korea.

Chol Hyun Construction is a North Korean company, acting on behalf of the DPRK government, which exports workers from the DPRK to other countries, primarily Gulf States and Africa. According to media reports, Chol Hyun Construction requires its workers in Kuwait to log extremely long hours (on average, 14 hours per day) and confines its workers to their quarters when they are not working. The same report indicates these workers are paid meager salaries. The report explains workers receive roughly $800-$1000 per month, 40 percent of which is paid directly into a North Korean government bank account, 20 percent is withheld by the site supervisor for company operating costs, and another 10 percent is withheld for room and board expenses. The remaining $165-$200 per month belongs to the worker, but workers are often required to give their cash to the site supervisor for “safe-keeping.” These workers are also forbidden from leaving the work site and group housing facility without permission from the North Korean security officer assigned to the work site. A South Korean media outlet also reports that North Korean workers in the Middle East, including employees of Chol Hyun Construction are kept in slave-like conditions, including having salaries and passports withheld by DPRK security officials assigned as site supervisors, meager food rations, poor living conditions, and severe restrictions on their freedom of movement.