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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Bush Institute Initiative on Human Rights in North Korea

by | June 27th, 2014 | 07:00 am

This blog has drawn attention to a few critics, such as Christine Hong, who appear critical of Western notions of human rights altogether. However, Marc Noland and I have always believed that human rights in North Korea should be a bipartisan issue, even if disagreements persist about how to proceed.

We were thus interested to see that the Bush Institute at the George W. Bush Presidential Center is launching an initiative to run through the end of the year on North Korea. A component of the Human Freedom Initiative, the effort will be lead by Victor Cha, a professor at Georgetown and author most recently of The Impossible State. The initiative is timed to coincide with serious thinking about how to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry findings; our posts on that process are collated below.

As is clear from his memoir, President Bush had a strong—even visceral–interest in the issue of North Korean human rights. He met with Kang Chol-hwan—author of the Aquariums of Pyongyang–while in office and on his last trip to South Korea he met with a group of defectors. The project will involve a series of meetings with stakeholders on both sides of the aisle, and prominent Democrats as well as Republicans have been consulted and involved.

The initiative has produced a brief infographic on the prison system, which is likely to be a focus of CoI follow-up, as well as links to interviews with three camp survivors: Shin Dong-hyuk, Kang Chol-hwan and Ahn Myeong Chul. In a short interview, Cha signals some of the ideas on the issue, from targeted financial sanctions to efforts to include human rights on the Six Party Talks and on bilateral relations with the DPRK as well.


Witness to Transformation Posts on the CoI: