Home > Our Work > Raising Awareness > Speaker Series #2: Week 5 Re-cap ‘The role of the international community to bring change in North Korea’

Speaker Series #2: Week 5 Re-cap: ‘The role of the international community to bring change in North Korea’ presented by Peter Lee [Former Freedom House Program Officer for HRNK, Member of the Washington D.C. Bar Association]
November 26th, 2014

At the final presentation of NKSC’s second Speaker Series: Strategies for Change, Peter Lee [Former Freedom House Program Officer for HRNK, Member of Washington D.C Bar Association] shared his perspectives on how the international community may go forward with regards to policies on North Korea.


Opening the discussion with a video of South Korean all-female Kpop group, ‘Girls Generation’ singing ‘tell me your wish’ in hot pants and naval hats on a carrier ship, Mr Lee assures us that there is an important comparison to be made with these Kpop stars at the end of his presentation.

Drawing comparison’s between 2013- John Kerry’s speech before this year’s UN General Assembly, followed by Obama’s declaration that the US will attack ISIL; and 2003 – Condoleezza Rice delivering a condemnation of North Korea and then President Bush also declaring the USA’s intention to wage war with Iraq, we were asked to consider that given this pattern of public condemnation and then invasion, could we expect the same of the USA in the case of North Korea?


Referring to Soviet Dissident Natan Sharansky’s ‘Town Hall Test’ from the book A Case for Democracy, Mr Lee asserted that North Korea is undoubtedly a ‘fear society’. Can a citizen walk into a central, public space and express their views and criticisms of society without fear of retribution? In North Korea, the answer is ‘no’. The book was also used by many in Washington to support the West’s invasion of Iraq in the name of freedom and democracy.
Mr Lee then shared a 3-Phase approach reflecting what the international community has done with regards to North Korea up until now, and where he sees international engagement going.

o Phase 1) Mid 2000s Intl Coalition & Platform
• NK HR conferences, people starting to become aware of NKHR issues though still very little information of discussion of it
• Congressional hearings
• UN special rapporteur
• Films, Musicals, Exhibitions
• Report Writings

o Phase 2) Mid 2010 – enforcing mechanisms
• UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) into DPRK
• A ‘strengthened’ UNGA Resolution
• OHCHR Field-Based Structure (Seoul)
• Discussion of ICC Prosecution at UN Security Council
• Rome Statute- countries that pass it are subject to it’s jurisdiction and countries that are recommended for an indictment to ICC must be signatories to the Statue (which North Korea is not). Also Russia and China would likely veto.


It took 10 years to get from Phase 1, of learning about and discussing the issue of North Korean Human Rights, to get to Phase 2 where the international community has slowly started taking more strengthened actions to denounce the regime and address NKHR abuses. The final phases:

o Phase 3) perhaps 10 years down the track
• Trials for perpetrators of HR abuses
• Truth and reconciliation commission (such as in South Africa)

o Phase 4) Maybe in 20 years – peaceful reunification? Stability and security in the East Asian peninsula?

Justice Michael Kirby’s recent COI report has been a major step forward in bolstering international efforts to take the Kim regime to trial at the ICC. However, North Korea says that they refuse all co-operation with the COI, that it is based entirely on lies and fabrications and that it is simply a tool meant to undermine the social system of the DPRK.

In closing, Mr Lee shared with the audience North Korean defector Yeonmi Park’s recent speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum. Yeonmi spoke of the characteristics of the ‘Jangmadang Generation’ (Black Market Generation) of North Korea – no strong allegiance to Kim Il Sung, limited and slowly increasing access to the outside world, capitalistic and individualistic. When people have some money and can trade, they start to think for themselves and have more free ideas. Seeing Yeonmi Park as a kind of ‘DPR-Kpop’ star, Mr Lee shared his optimism that perhaps it’s the ‘Black Market Generation’ (not ‘Girls Generation!’) that could be shaking up North Korea and creating the waves of change needed.




Thank you to all who participated in our second Speaker Series and we hope to see you at our future events!