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About HRNK

In October of 2001, a distinguished group of foreign policy and human rights specialists launched the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) to promote human rights in North Korea.

HRNK’s Guiding Objectives

Close North Korea’s gulags:

Up to 120,000 people are believed to be imprisoned without due process, under inhumane conditions, for political reasons; an estimated 400,000 have died in such camps. We should seek access to the camps for International Red Cross inspection teams, a list of those imprisoned and those responsible for their care, and information regarding their sentences and their conditions. A special effort must be made to release family members detained in the camps without charge, because of the  policy of collective punishment for the kin of political prisoners. This practice, and infanticide against inmates’ new-born children should be stopped immediately.

Open North Korea’s borders:

North Korea and China must cease criminalizing the act of leaving North Korea without permission, and the rights of those fleeing North Korea’s political persecution must be respected. Escapees are political refugees who must not be forcibly repatriated. UNHCR must be given access to North Koreans in the border areas. Foreign citizens abducted by the regime and held against their will must be allowed to return to their homes.

Inform North Korea’s Citizens:

Provide information to the North Korean people, especially via radio and other media, ending their forced isolation.

Foster good economic principles:

Encourage companies investing in North Korea to develop a code of conduct, similar to the Sullivan principles that were applied in South Africa to protect workers and other citizens. 

Promote access throughout North Korea:

Human rights organizations, and independent media must be given full access to North Korea, thereby ending the information blockade that has prevented the true picture of conditions in North Korea from being known. Both the distribution of and access to humanitarian relief to the North must be adequately and transparently monitored to verify relief is reaching those most in need.

Feed the hungry in North Korea:

Under the regime’s military first policies, food supplies are known to be withheld from those that need it most and provided to those who are categorized as loyal or useful to the regime. Even internationally provided food assistance is reported to be diverted on many occasions. This use of food as a method of political retribution and coercion must stop.

Link Development Assistance to North Korea to tangible improvements in the regime’s human rights record:

Development assistance to the government of North Korea must be predicated on steps taken by it to protect the rights of the people of North Korea, including the right to be free from arbitrary imprisonment and torture, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience.

Current Activities:

The Committee’s research and publication activities focus on how the North Korean totalitarian regime abuses the rights of its citizens, its vast system of political prisons and labor camps, the regime’s denial of equal access to food and goods, and the plight of refugees fleeing to China.

Our well documented studies have established our reputation and our leading role in the growing international network of human rights, humanitarian assistance, and policy organizations committed to opening up and revealing North Korea to the rest of the world.

Our twenty studies have established our reputation and our leading role in the growing international network of human rights, humanitarian assistance, and policy organizations committed to opening up and revealing North Korea to the rest of the world.

North Korea's Camp No. 25 Update
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
Jun 05, 2014

As part of a joint undertaking with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) to use satellite imagery to shed light on human suffering in North Korea AllSource Analysis (ASA) has been monitoring activity at political prison facilities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, more commonly known as North Korea).  This report covers activity observed during the past 12 months at the facility commonly known as Kwan-li-so&nbs

In Illicit: North Korea’s Evolving Operations to Earn Hard Curre­­ncy, Sheena Chestnut Greitens provides a detailed and thoroughly researched account of the role of illicit activities in the North Korean economy. A central conclusion of Chestnut Greitens’ analysis is that in the context of eroding state control over the licit aspects of the economy, illicit activities are also being “privatized” by North Korea’s elite.  As HRNK Co-chair and for

David Hawk interprets reports of changes in North Korea's political prison camps in his most recent report, North Korea's Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps. Please view the press release here. 

The newest version of Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korea Police State by Ken Gause, updated on May 24, 2013. 

North Korea's Camp No. 25
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Feb 25, 2013

For this report, DigitalGlobe Analytics examined eleven images collected from 2003 to 2013 of the North Korean political prison facility known as Camp 25 (a.k.a. Kwan-liso No. 25, Political Prison Facility No. 25, No. 25 Chongjin Political Concentration Camp, Susŏng Correctional Center) in Susŏng-dong, Ch’ŏngjin-si, Hamgyŏng-bukto, on the northeast coast of the nation. In this analysis, imagery was compared to identify changes in the organization of the camp, including variations in:

North Korea's Camp No. 22 - Update
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Dec 11, 2012

As a follow-up to the October 2012 joint HRNK- DigitalGlobe imagery analysis of North Korea’s Camp 22 (Kwan-li-so No. 22, Korean People’s Security Guard Unit 2209), DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center was asked to assist in identifying reported activity in and around Camp 22 in Hamgyŏng-bukto. More specifically, the Analysis Center was to examine: The outer perimeter fence, guard towers and guard positions to determine if some, or all, have been razed. The

North Korea's Camp No. 22
HRNK & DigitalGlobe, Inc.
Oct 24, 2012

During late September 2012, the North Korean activist community began reporting that the notorious political penal labor facility Camp 22 had been closed in early 2012. On October 1, 2012, in response to these reports and in partnership with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, DigitalGlobe’s Analysis Center initiated an imagery analysis of Camp 22.

The North Korean government assigns a “songbun” status to every citizen at birth based on the perceived political loyalty of his or her family going back generations. While a small, politically loyal class in North Korea is entitled to extensive privileges, the vast majority of citizens are relegated to a permanent lower status and then discriminated against for reasons they cannot control or change.

The Hidden Gulag Second Edition
David Hawk
Apr 10, 2012

Based on extensive interviews with over 60 defectors and more than 40 satellite photos of North Korean political prisoner camps, the report calls for the dismantlement of the vast North Korean gulag system in which 150,000 to 200,000 are incarcerated.

Taken!
Yoshi Yamamoto
Nov 30, 2011

TAKEN! provides an in-depth and comprehensive history and analysis of North Korea’s state-sponsored policy of abducting citizens of other countries. This criminal enterprise dates back to the earliest days of the regime, and to policy decisions made by Kim II-sung himself. Those abducted came from widely diverse backgrounds, numerous nationalities, both genders, and all ages, and were taken from placs as far away as London, Copenhagen, Zagreb, Beirut, Hong Kong, and China, in addition to Japan.

This report calls the world’s attention to the suffering of North Korean women who have become the victims of trafficking and forced marriages after escaping their country to seek a new life in China. Seventy-seven interviews with North Korean women living in China yield 52 personal accounts--life stories of women who leave their home country for survival and safety only to be purchased by Chinese men who abuse and exploit them in China. In spite of finding places to live, North Korean women ent

North Korea after Kim Jong-il: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
Dec 31, 1969

North Korea today is in a state of power transition that could lead to new dangers, instability, and uncertainty.  This was not the case during the first succession.  Kim Jong-Il had been carefully groomed by his father to succeed him.  The process had gone on for twenty years and was directed by Kim Il-Sung himself. In North Korea, all political power derives from Kim Il-Sung’s reign.  At the present, North Korea refers to itself as “Kim Il-Sung’s nati

After Kim Jong II: Can We Hope for Better Human Rights Protection?
Kim Kwang Jin, HRNK Non-Resident Fellow
Dec 31, 1969

This report is part of HRNK’s “Occasional Papers,” expressing a viewpoint not necessarily representative of the Committee or its Board of Directors. Rather, this paper is written from the viewpoint of a courageous man who has seen the North Korean system from within and has participated in the workings of that system. The author knows how outcomes are produced in North Korea and which individuals are critical to the political process. Kim Kwang-jin provides an overview of the North K

This report is a sequel to the previous report, “Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea” (2006), which called for the UN Security Council to take action. The report identifies concerns with respect to human rights in North Korea. While North Korea has opened up to some international aid, their food policy and inequitable social classification system (“Songbun”) prevents large segments of the population from ever receiving food provided by i

Legal Strategies for Protecting Human Rights in North Korea
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Dec 31, 1969

For over sixty years, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has engaged in the systematic, flagrant violation of nearly every human right recognized and protected by international law. This handbook describes the options available to human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking to pursue international legal action against North Korea. The international legal system offers a variety of avenues for action, which NGOs can pursue. This report explores such legal avenues, linking NG

Czech Republic President Havel, Norwegian Prime Minister Bondevik, and Nobel Peace Prize Laurate and Boston University Professor Elie Wiesel commissioned the global law firm DLA Piper LLP to work with the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, because they believed that the security threat posed by North Korea has relegated the human rights concerns in the country to a second-class status. With the unanimous adoption by the UN Security Council of the doctrine that each state has a “resp

The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response
Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland
Dec 31, 1969

Concentration on the strategic problem in the national security context is clearly warranted, yet there is another, growing dimension to the North Korean problem that poses a grave challenge: the plight of ordinary North Koreans who are denied even the most basic human rights, and those who risk their lives to escape the world’s worst nightmare, the tyranny of the Kim Jong-il regime. In this report, six experts – Stephen Haggard, Marcus Noland, Yoonok Chang, Joshua Kurlantzick, Jana Mason,