North Korea: A Voice from an Unheard People
(To join the 2/19 7pm EST Reddit AMA chat with a North Korean defector, go here (note: you will need a Reddit login to join the conversation). Or submit your questions and track the conversation on Twitter @aym or #TalkNK)
North Korea is all over the news again, and for all the wrong reasons.
We’ve had a flood of coverage from around the world on the intricacies of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, what this shows about Kim Jong-un’s leadership, whether China will change its approach to North Korea (spoiler alert: the answer is no), and what the outcome of yet another round of discussions at the UN Security Council will be.
North Korea, judging from the media, is all nukes, missiles, and Kims.
It would be easy to forget that there are 24 million people just like us living in the country. 24 million people who wake up every day to pervasive oppression and devastating poverty. Despite the fact that these individuals have endured by far the most adversity in this whole situation, they do not get a voice or even much attention in the mainstream media, so focused as it is on nuclear weapons, international politics and the regime leadership. For all the talking heads we see discussing North Korea in the news, how many times have you seen a North Korean talk about what life is like for them?
This coming Tuesday, Movements.org is teaming up with Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) to change that.
On February 19, 7pm EST (4pm PST) we will be co-hosting a live Reddit AMA (Ask-Me-Anything), cross-posted to Twitter (using hashtag #TalkNK), with a North Korean defector who left the country recently and is able to share a very up-to-date picture of North Korea through his eyes. This is your chance to dialogue directly with someone who has grown up in, and escaped from, one of the most closed-off countries in the world-- a country so often at the centre of international attention, but that we know so little about.
We will be speaking with Sang-hyun*, a defector in his early 20s who was at the forefront of some of North Korea’s most significant grassroots change phenomena until he escaped the country and came to South Korea. Sang-hyun is keen to participate because he wants people in the outside world to have a better understanding of what is happening in his home country, and we look forward to making this conversation happen and to start giving the North Korean people’s voices the attention they deserve.
We feel that a focus on the North Korean people and an amplification of their voices is important not just because they face the most repressive regime in the world, but also because this can be changed. While the human rights situation North Korea was recognized by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as having “no parallel anywhere else in the world,” the North Korean people have emerged as the main force for change, driving a quiet bottom-up transformation of North Korean society which reveals hope for an eventual end to this ongoing global tragedy.
(For a rare example of a great analysis that highlights the voices of North Korea’s people, check out this excellent Economist briefing that LINK contributed to on North Korea’s social changes.
A little about LiNK:
Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) is the only full-time grassroots organization in North America devoted to the North Korean human rights and humanitarian crises. LiNK provides protection and aid to North Korean refugees hiding in China and, utilizing a modern-day underground railroad through Southeast Asia, rescues refugees and helps them to reach freedom. LiNK’s global grassroots movement works to redefine public perception on North Korea, shifting attention away from the politics and onto the people, and provides a way for concerned citizens to come alongside the North Korean people and help bring about positive change. LiNK also works to develop people-focused strategies that will have the potential to promote change inside North Korea in the long term.
*In order to protect his identity and prevent repercussions against people inside North Korea, we will not be able to reveal Sang-hyun’s real name or other potentially identifying information. We hope you understand. Also please note that Sang-hyun does not speak English, so real-time English-Korean translation will be provided by LiNK staff.