Activists Come Together in Seoul
Protests, seminars, rallies and prayer vigils will be held throughout this week to promote human rights and freedom for the North Korean population.
From last Sunday, North Korean defectors and activists have been meeting for North Korea Freedom Week 2010 in Seoul, which continues until May 1.
"Our hope is that North Korea Freedom Week will empower the 17,000-strong North Korean defectors in South Korea," said Suzanne Scholte, head of North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC), in a press release. "And inform all who are suffering north of the DMZ that we will work together until the day their freedom, human rights and dignity are realized."
North Korea Freedom Week was first established by the NKFC in 2004 as a single day to bring together public support in the United States for the North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004. This is the first year it has been held outside of America.
"Many of the North Korean defectors we hosted for North Korea Freedom Week in Washington, D.C., these past six years will now be taking the lead and working with South Korean leaders and organizations to organize these events," Scholte said.
This year, the event is being co-chaired by Scholte and high profile North Korean defector Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the North Korean Workers' Party Central Committee. Two North Korean agents posing as defectors were arrested in the South last week, apparently with orders to kill Hwang.
The week began on Sunday with a prayer vigil by North Korean defector churches and the opening of a photo exhibition at the Seoul Press Center -- "Ah, the warm country in the South!" --by Moon Gook-han about "genocide" in the North.
Other events set to take place over the course of the week include a debate on human rights and freedom in North Korea held at Community Chest Korea, Jung-gu, which will include defector and author of the well-known prison camp expose "The Aquariums of Pyongyang," Kang Chol-hwan. As well as a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Jongno-gu, Seoul, this Friday at 10 a.m.
In addition to raising awareness of the suffering in North Korea and giving defectors the opportunity to speak out, in past years NKFW has resulted in meetings between the president of the United States and North Korean defectors, the first-ever Congressional hearings to focus on abducted South Korean and Japanese citizens.
"With the increasing ability for North Koreans to learn about the outside world, it is fitting that North Korea Freedom Week will be held in South Korea for the first time," Kim Seung-min of Free North Korea Radio was quoted as saying in the press release.
Simultaneously with events being held in Seoul, Open Doors-USA, will be organizing prayer events for North Korea throughout the U.S.
"This will be -- as always -- a week to promote the freedom, human rights and dignity of the North Korean people through rallies, prayer vigils, conferences, exhibits and other events," Scholte said. "And will conclude with a balloon launch from the DMZ, which will include radios, money and a special message about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
North Korea is reported to have nearly 200,000 political prisoners in detention camps. And according to the World Food Program, there are about 9 million people needing urgent food assistance in the communist state.