The government of South Korea has announced that it will file official complaints against, and revoke the incorporation registrations of, two North Korean defector organizations whose mission is to send information to North Koreans suffering under the Kim regime.
In response to this news, the Human Rights Foundation has sent a letter to President Moon Jae-In to urge him to respect the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association of South Korean citizens who have chosen to demonstrate their discontent with North Korea’s totalitarian regime.
North Korea is a fully authoritarian regime, in which there is no separation of powers between the judiciary, legislature, and executive branches of government. There is no freedom of association, expression, press, or religion. The 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry found extensive violation in fundamental freedoms, such as the right to life, food, residence, and employment — as well as the right to be free from arbitrary detention and torture. North Koreans have no access to outside information except for what is reported on state television, which consists of purely propaganda praising the Kim regime.
Organizations such as Fighters for a Free North Korea and Keunsaem, run by defectors Park Sang-hak and Park Jun-oh, are two of the few civil society groups focusing on bringing outside information into the world’s most closed and intolerant society. Defectors are the only ones capable of representing the voices of the 25 million North Korean people living without access to the internet, outside mail, or any piece of uncensored information. Not only are they exerting their democratic right to freedom of expression, they are also helping the people of North Korea reclaim their right to receive information.
Additionally, revoking the registration of defector-run organizations violates both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which clearly outline the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the right to seek, receive and impart information. As a member state of the United Nations and home to one of the few UN Human Rights Offices in Asia, South Korea must safeguard these rights for all its citizens, including those of North Korean origin.
HRF respectfully urges President Moon Jae-In to uphold the democratic principles valued highly by the South Korean people and refrain from conducting any action that might obstruct the work of Free North Korea and Keun Saem, as well as any future actions against North Korean defector-activists fighting to expose the horrors of the Kim regime.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.