Beyond Pyongyang: Connecting with the People of North Korea

June 13, 2018
08:30 am - 12:00 pm

About the event

As the world’s attention has been focused on efforts of the U.S., South Korea, and China to engage North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un in nuclear negotiations, little attention has been paid to the potential benefits of direct engagement with the people of North Korea.

For nearly 20 years, the National Endowment for Democracy has witnessed and supported the tremendous growth of outstanding and innovative groups who are working to end the isolation and suffering of the North Korean people. These efforts have led to dramatic change both inside and outside North Korea. Through their work to empower defectors, document and advocate for human rights, and ensure the free flow of information in and out of North Korea, the North Korean civil society movement has greatly increased international understanding of life inside the Hermit Kingdom and opened a window to the outside world for those who remain inside. NED is proud to recognize this work with its 2018 Democracy Award.

This timely discussion of recent developments featured the insights of key policy makers and experts in U.S. – DPRK relations, as well as the recipients of NED’s 2018 Democracy Award. These activists discussed how exposure to and engagement with the outside world is changing North Korea from the inside, and what that change means for the future of North Korea and its people.

featuring remarks by

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy

Panel I – Assessing the Current Situation in North Korea

Moderator: Roberta Cohen, U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

  • Amb. Mark Lippert, Boeing, former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea
  • Jung Pak, Brookings Institution
  • Michael J. Green, CSIS; Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Panel II – Information, Advocacy, and Defectors: The Role of Civil Society
Moderator: Josh Rogin, The Washington Post

Featuring the recipients of NED’s 2018 Democracy Award

  • Sungju Lee, Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights
  • Ji Seong-ho, Now, Action & Unity for Human Rights (NAUH)
  • Kwang Baek Lee, Unification Media Group
  • Hubert Younghwan Lee, Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG)

About the Speakers

Senator Ed Markey is the junior senator from Massachusetts, serving since 2013. He was previously the representative for Massachusetts’s 5th congressional district and the representative for Massachusetts’s 7th congressional district. He is ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

Amb. Mark Lippert is vice president of Boeing International where he handles a global portfolio that cuts across commercial, defense and services issues. An Asia expert with long experience at senior positions in the United States Government, Mr. Lippert served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, chief of staff to the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, and chief of staff and deputy assistant to the President at the National Security Council.

Michael J. Green is senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and director of Asian Studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Jung Pak is a senior fellow and the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies. She focuses on the national security challenges facing the United States and East Asia, including North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities, the regime’s domestic and foreign policy calculus, internal stability, and inter-Korean ties.

Roberta Cohen is co-chair emeritus at the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. She is a specialist in human rights, humanitarian, and refugee issues, and a leading expert on the subject of internally displaced persons and on human rights conditions in North Korea.

Josh Rogin is a columnist for the Global Opinions section of the Washington Post and a political analyst with CNN. Previously, he has covered foreign policy and national security for Bloomberg ViewNewsweek, the Daily BeastForeign Policy magazine, Congressional QuarterlyFederal Computer Week magazine and Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper. He was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and the 2011 recipient of the Interaction Award for Excellence in International Reporting.

Sungju Lee is a consultant at the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR). He is the author of Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea¸ detailing his defection in 2002. He is strongly interested in the unification of the Korean Peninsula, human rights, and rescuing North Korean refugees in China.

Seong-ho Ji is is the President of Now Action & Unity for Human Rights (NAUH). Since defecting from North Korea in 2006, he has participated in activities in various fields including human rights symposiums and cultural events in a bid to improve North Korean human rights and prepare for unification. He gained international attention in 2108 when President Donald Trump hosted him as a guest at the State of the Union address, sharing his harrowing story.

Kwang Baek Lee is the president of Unification Media Group and has over thirteen years of experience creating and broadcasting radio content for North Korean residents. His work has been cited by, among others, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Institute for Far East Studies, the Institute for Peace Affairs, and the Korean Association for Broadcasting and Telecommunication.

Hubert Younghwan Lee is the executive director and founder of the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG), designing projects and overseeing the operation of the organization. Lee has over ten years of first-hand research and advocacy experience on North Korean human rights issues, and has been engaged in training human rights activists in South Korea.

Sen. Ed Markey's Opening Remarks


Panel I: Assessing the Current Situation in North Korea


Panel II: Information, Advocacy, and Defectors: The Role of Civil Society


Ji Seong-ho Shares His Defector Story


Sungju Lee Shares His Defector Story