A human rights advocate once arrested for helping North Koreans escape the harsh conditions of their country hopes his urgings for outside intervention in the ongoing crisis there continue to gain traction with the news media.
At a Hudson Institute event showcasing tales from one North Korean escapee that has recently become the central point of online chatter, Adrian Hong stressed the importance of involvement by individuals in “free” countries to address what is happening in North Korea.
“At least 1 million, if not 2 million, North Koreans starved to death in the mid-1990s when the government had access to food and was able to feed its own people and did not,” said Hong, adding that presently between 6 and 7 million Koreans living in North Korea are at “starvation levels in terms of nutrition.”
“The North Korean government has treated its people not like any other modern state would. It’s not there in order to facilitate the well-being of its people, it’s there to facilitate the well-being of about two or three thousand elites, in particular one family with the name Kim,” said Hong.
Hong’s speech was made during a late September event for the book “Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad.”
“There is no illusion as to how bad the regime is. The illusion is in the sense that we can’t solve it. The delusion is that we think this is an inevitable crisis that cannot be fixed, that we have no right to do anything or that we have no ability to do anything about it . . . This place is almost this black hole in modern civilization, by any measure . . . It’s a huge problem not just for human rights, (but) for proliferation, for WMD (weapons of mass destruction), biological, chemical, nuclear weapons, conventional weapons, counter fitting, state sponsored terrorism . . . this is a big deal that we kind of keep pushing under the rug.”
In addition to being the managing director of Pegasus Strategies LLC, a communications consultant firm, Hong himself had previously been arrested in China and eventually deported in 2006 for helping North Korean refugees illegally relocate to the country. Hong is also the co-founder and Executive Director of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), an international NGO devoted to establishing human rights across North Korea.
Despite the current crisis in North Korea, Hong was hopeful for the future.
“I think there will be a day when North Korea is free. It may be 100 years from now or 10 years from now, but that day will come and I think most of us involved in various governments or policy positions will realize that there could have been much more we could have down and that the circumstances were worse than we had anticipated . . . We have overwhelming evidence of what is happening and there is really no excuse anymore in terms of ignorance . . . When you look at Korea and South Korea and what its accomplished in the past 60 years, the Korean people and the Korean soul when its unchained can do extraordinary things. It went from one of the most impoverished countries in the entire world to the 10th largest economy in the world in 60 years. It’s incredible.”
In his closing, Hong acknowledged that past sanctions on the communist nation had negatively impacted the North Korean regime, but stressed the importance of individual actions from free people to effect change in the country and bring further attention to a crisis that he says effects all nations.
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