WASHINGTON, August 16, 2017- The Committee of Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a non-governmental organization based in Washington, DC, set up a billboard in Times Square to advocate against widespread human rights violations in North Korea. Our video runs every 20 minutes on 43rd & Broadway and features three short clips of ten seconds each. Kicking off with a set of candles and “120,000 North Korean political prisoners are suffering,” we then display a NASA satellite image with the words “S.O.S., freedom and justice for North Koreans,” and finish off with a motion picture of barbed wires wrapping human figures that alludes to the state of life in North Korea’s “hidden gulags.”
HRNK is the only US bipartisan NGO dedicated exclusively to researching and reporting on the North Korean human rights situation. We are the first organization to use satellite imagery of the political prison camps in North Korea along with testimony from escapees to scrutinize abuses perpetrated by the North Korean leadership. Since our founding in 2001, we have testified numerous times in front of Congress and published a significant amount of investigative work on North Korea. Our publications focus on how the North Korean regime abuses the human 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 escaping through China. Our research, analysis, publications and outreach were critical in the establishment and investigation of the groundbreaking UN Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in North Korea.
As Professor David Maxwell, HRNK board member points out: “Twenty five million Koreans living in the north are suffering severe human rights conditions every day. The liberty, dignity, and well being of these Koreans have been under siege for nearly seven decades. It is a moral imperative that we work to end this suffering. We cannot turn a blind eye to the crimes against humanity taking place on the northern half of the Korean peninsula.”
Ambassador Winston Lord, HRNK board member notes: “If North Korea's nuclear program evokes images of future devastation, its barbaric regime has already condemned its people to a wasteland for decades. The bipartisan HRNK leads a gathering global movement to highlight and ease the suffering of North Koreans. It needs and deserves support in its campaign against the most gripping human rights challenge in the world.”
Your support is crucial to our outreach and the fate of our billboard, behind which stand 25 million helpless North Koreans who cannot speak for themselves. That being said, it is not just about them but also about us. The Kim dynastic dictatorship poses a severe threat to our homeland following the rogue regime’s rising nuclear power that is now capable of reaching the US states of Alaska and Hawaii. Too long have we viewed human rights and politics as separate entities while ignoring their highly correlated dynamics. On that note, HRNK board member Carl Gershman presents two policies necessary to dealing with such regime:
“The first is to contain North Korea by taking steps to deter its aggressive behavior, among them the imposition of comprehensive sanctions and the deployment in South Korea of an effective system of ballistic missile defense. The second is to change it by defending the human rights of the North Korean people. That means doing what we can to end their isolation from the outside world, to empower them, and to give them a voice in determining their country’s future. Only then might there emerge—from within the country’s elite class—people who realize that the current system is doomed and who want to seek a peaceful way to a better future.”
Following his account, we would highly appreciate your support in our endeavor to simultaneously educate the outside and enlighten the inside. In that process, this billboard is a symbol of monumental importance. In the words of veteran human rights investigator David Hawk, “The North Korean gulag is no longer hidden. Its web of political prisons and labor camps—many visible on Google Earth—is there for all to see. But the men and women trapped inside this are hidden still, subject to enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and forced labor under extremely harsh conditions.” With such immorality in mind, now is our chance to light up Times Square on behalf of those who are not lit, for if darkness is the absence of light then where light be, darkness will no longer be. As HRNK Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu put it, “this billboard brings our deep concern for the plight of North Korean people right into the path of more than one million people going through Times Square every day.”