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Bush Institute Releases Call to Action on North Korean Human Rights

January 7, 2015


The Bush Institute at the George W. Bush Presidential Center today released Light Through the Darkness, a comprehensive call to action for governments, the private sector, and civil society to work together to improve the human condition in North Korea.

The report reflects the findings of a year-long, bipartisan Bush Institute effort. In 2014, the Bush Institute convened unprecedented consensus building meetings with experts, government officials, leaders in civil society, North Korean refugees, and business representatives; commissioned original research; and identified additional steps that the United States and other free societies can take to support the people of North Korea.

 “We believe more must be done to raise awareness of the suffering of North Koreans, support and empower refugees, inject information into the country, and make human rights a priority for all governments,” said Amanda Schnetzer, director of the Human Freedom initiative at the Bush Institute.  “The Bush Institute’s call to action is simple: for the sake of 24 million North Korean people, momentum in this area must continue. The world cannot turn a blind eye to one of the worst human rights tragedies of our time.”

Authored by Victor Cha, a Bush Institute fellow in human freedom and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the report prescribes actions that governments, NGOs, and the private sector can take in support of the movement. The report draws on new independent research from the Bush Institute, including public opinion polling and extensive interviews with North Korean refugees who have resettled in the United States.

“This report comes at a crucial time,” said Cha. “Actions like the release of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry report in February and the recent UN General Assembly vote to condemn North Korea’s human rights abuses show us that global concern is rising and that there is a growing appetite to address this situation.”

Light Through the Darkness calls for a four-pronged approach:

  • Raise global awareness: Survey work commissioned by the Bush Institute shows that while there is growing global awareness of injustice in North Korea, there is not yet significant enough awareness around the magnitude of the human rights violations in the country or what the international community is doing to address it. Recommendations include a broad global awareness building campaign that includes Korean and non-Korean communities around the world.
  • Support and empower refugees: Refugees have an important and unique role to play in the future of Korea.  Bush Institute interviews with refugees who have resettled in the United States reveal that more can be done to streamline their transition after escaping the North Korean regime, and to position them to serve as ambassadors in the cause of North Korean human rights. Recommendations include expanding and improving refugee resettlement programs inside and outside of the United States and empowering refugees with educational opportunities.
  • Make human rights a priority for governments: A mainstream strategy for the Korean peninsula must better integrate North Korean human rights issues. The international community must address both the threat North Korea poses to international security and the regime’s denial of freedom to its own people. Recommendations include free societies placing human rights front and center in their interactions with the North Korean government, as well as with countries that collude with the regime, contrary to their international obligations.
  • Break information barriers: Improved communications methods and better quality content are making a difference in North Korea by broadening access to information and weakening the government’s information monopoly. Recommendations include the development and funding of new content dissemination methods and stronger content focused on the condition of the North Korean people.


To view the full report, please visit: www.bushcenter.org/reports/northkorea.



About the Human Freedom Initiative:

The Bush Institute’s Human Freedom initiative seeks to advance the development of free societies rooted in individual liberty, civil society, and democratic institutions and practices.  Our programs provide a continuum of support for freedom advocates leading nonviolent change in countries that are closed, in transition to democracy, or in retreat from democracy.  We advocate for U.S. global leadership and engagement as essential to increasing freedom in the world.

About the Bush Institute:

Housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the Bush Institute is an action-oriented, non-partisan policy organization with the mission of engaging communities in the United States and around the world by cultivating leaders and advancing policies to solve today’s most pressing challenges. The work of the Bush Institute is inspired by the belief in compassionate ideals and convicted leadership that guided the Bushes in public life.