Light Through the Darkness: A Forum on Freedom in North Korea


November 29, 2016

Read the Report

Learn more in the Bush Institute report on human rights in North Korea, Light Through the Darkness.
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North Korean Freedom Scholarship

The Bush Institute is creating a scholarship and mentoring program to benefit North Korean escapees and help them build productive, prosperous lives as new Americans.
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On November 29, 2016, the Bush Institute hosted Light Through the Darkness: A Forum on Freedom in North Korea, a gathering of national and community leaders to spotlight the human condition in North Korea. This forum explored the nexus between North Korean human rights and national security, as well as new initiatives that support the North Korean people, particularly escapees who have resettled in the United States.

North Korea is one of the world’s most repressive countries. Satellite images (pictured above) show the country – close to 47,000 square miles in size – sitting in virtual darkness. More than 24 million North Koreans live under tyranny. They are subjected to widespread human rights violations and denied fundamental rights like free expression, association, assembly, and religion.

Over the past two decades, the United States and other free societies have focused growing attention on the plight of the people in North Korea, but more must be done. In 2014, the Human Freedom initiative at the George W. Bush Institute helped break new ground in our understanding of one of the worst human tragedies of our time. The result was a call to action for governments, the private sector, and civil society to work together to improve the human condition in North Korea.

Learn more about the human rights in North Korea from our digital report, Light Through the Darkness.

9:00 a.m.   Forum Begins

Welcome Remarks – Amanda Schnetzer, Director of Global Initiatives, George W. Bush Institute

Remarks by President George W. Bush

9:15 a.m.  Policy Discussion | The Human Rights and Security Nexus

Moderator: Michael Gerson | Columnist, The Washington Post


Victor Cha | Human Freedom Fellow, George W. Bush Institute; Director of Asian Studies, Georgetown University; Senior Advisor and Korea Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Robert L. Galluci | Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy, Georgetown University of Diplomacy, Georgetown University
Joseph Lieberman | Former United States Senator, Connecticut
Cory Gardner | United States Senator, Colorado

Remarks by Mrs. Laura Bush

10:15 a.m.   Moderated Discussion | The Story of North Korean Refugees

Moderator: Michael Gerson | Columnist, The Washington Post


Robert R. King | U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights
Joseph Kim | North Korean Refugee; Student, Bard College
Grace Jo | North Korean Refugee; Student, Montgomery College

10:45 a.m.   Closing Remarks

Kenneth Hersh | President & CEO, George W. Bush Presidential Center


About the Speakers

Amanda Schnetzer
Director of Global Initiatives, the Bush Institute
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Senator Cory Gardner
United States Senator, Colorado

Cory Gardner began serving in the Colorado House of Representatives in 2005 where he spent time as the Minority Whip and became known for his expertise in natural resource and agriculture policy. Cory was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Cory championed a true all-of-the-above energy strategy that promoted traditional resources as well as renewable energy. In addition, Cory is a national leader on energy efficiency initiatives and founded a bipartisan energy efficiency caucus in the House.

In the Senate, Cory continues to pursue common sense energy policy as a member of the Senate Energy & Natural Resource Committee. In addition, Cory serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. He serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and as Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, Cory is leading the effort to impose broad new sanctions against North Korea, as the regime continues to be a leading abuser of human rights and its reckless advancement of nuclear weapons threatens our national security. Additionally, he continues to push for a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy from the Obama Administration.

Recently, Cory was elected by his colleagues to serve as the Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a leadership role that presents an opportunity to ensure Coloradans’ voices are heard and elevate issues that are important to the West.

Joseph I. Lieberman
Former United States Senator, Connecticut

Now Senior Counsel at the law firm of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, and Friedman in New York, Joseph I. Lieberman was for 24 years a member of the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. At the end of his service in January 2013, he was Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. Through both Committee positions, he became a leader in protecting the security of the American people and supporting American international leadership.  Senator Lieberman is known as a national leader who works across party lines to get things done and who speaks his conscience regardless of the political consequences. Before his election to the Senate in 1988, Senator Lieberman served 10 years in the Connecticut State Senate and 6 years as Connecticut’s Attorney General. In 2000 he was the Democratic candidate for Vice President of the United States.

Senator Lieberman is married to Hadassah Freilich Lieberman. Together they have four children and 11 grandchildren.

Victor Cha
Senior Adviser and Korea Chair, CSIS; Professor and Director of Asian Studies, Georgetown University; Fellow in Human Freedom, George W. Bush Presidential Center

As a Fellow in Human Freedom, Victor Cha is helping lead an initiative on the problem of human rights in North Korea.  In addition, he is a senior adviser and the inaugural holder of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and Director of Asian studies and holder of the D.S. Song-KF Chair in the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. From 2004 to 2007, he served as Director for Asian Affairs at the White House on the National Security Council (NSC), where he was responsible primarily for Japan, the Korean peninsula, Australia/New Zealand, and Pacific Island nation affairs. Dr. Cha was also the Deputy Head of Delegation for the United States at the Six-Party Talks in Beijing and received two Outstanding Service Commendations during his tenure at the NSC. His newest book is Powerplay: Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia (Princeton University Press, 2016).

Ambassador Robert R. King
U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights

Ambassador King has been U.S. Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights Issues at the Department of State since November 2009, shortly after his confirmation by the U.S. Senate.  He is the leading voice on DPRK human rights issues in the State Department, active in United Nations efforts on North Korea human rights, and he negotiated humanitarian issues with the DPRK government in 2011-2012.  Prior to serving in his current position, he was Staff Director of U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee (2001-2009) and Chief of Staff to Congressman Tom Lantos of California (1983-2008).  He was a White House Fellow with the National Security Council in the Carter Administration (1977-1978) and Assistant Director of Research and Senior Analyst at Radio Free Europe (1970-1977).  He holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a B.A. from Brigham Young University.