This September is North Korean Human Rights Month, and it kicked off with an impressive opening ceremony at the Constitution Hall of the National Assembly in central Seoul.
The ceremony proclaimed the start of the month’s events and was attended by over 300 participants.
The attendees included North Korean human rights activists, defectors and college students, as well as other prominent figures like Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Mun-soo, Deputy Minister of Unification Kim Cheon-sik, Advancement Unification Party Chairperson Lee In-je and famed North Korean human rights activist Kim Young-hwan.
The 30-day event is being held by over 30 North Korean human rights groups, including the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea and NKnet, to educate people about North Korean human rights issues through various activities.
At the opening ceremony, these organizations also said that as “the UN General Assembly opens every September and the National Assembly also opens a regular session in September, (they had) gathered to designate the month as North Korean Human Rights Month in order to promote the issue of North Korean human rights and provide institutional support to solve the problem.”
Dozens of activities are scheduled during NKHR Month, such as a talk by Kim Young-hwan at Yonsei University on September 12.
The 2nd North Korean Human Rights International Film Festival will also be held at Seoul Station Plaza from September 20 – 21 (blog.naver.com/nhiff).
In addition, there will be performances, seminars and a photo exhibition; a detailed description of the events being held during NKHR Month can be found at www.nkhrmonth.org (Korean only).
At the opening ceremony, Kim Young-hwan, currently a researcher at NKnet, and Dr. Lee Ae-ran, the first female defector Ph.D. holder, received plaques and were both named North Korean Human Rights Activist of the Year.
There were also opening and congratulatory remarks by Korea Freedom Federation Chairperson Park Chang-dal, Governor Kim, Deputy Unification Minister Kim and AUP Chairperson Lee.
Another highlight of the ceremony was the reading of a letter to the North Korean people and regime which was written by a North Korean defector who now lives as a South Korean citizen in Seoul.
The letter was read aloud at the ceremony by Kang Weon-cheol, another South Korean individual, to hide the identity of the defector who drafted the letter in order to protect him or her from retaliation by North Korea.
Following the reading of the letter, there was an electric music and dance performance by a trio of young women called Eleccookie, one of whom used a bow to play an electric instrument which was based on a traditional Korean stringed instrument.
The other two women played an electric keyboard and violin, respectively, and their stunning little concert drew cheers, applause, and a call for an encore performance from the audience, which clapped enthusiastically to the beat of their music.
Finally, the ceremony ended with a flourish when college students and representatives from participating organizations mounted the stage and one of these individuals read a stirring NKHR Month Declaration before the audience insisting that three demands be met to end North Korean human rights abuses.
The first of these demands include the swift passage by the National Assembly of laws protecting North Korean human rights.
The second thing they demanded was that any South Korean candidate running for president this year must promise to tackle North Korean human rights issues if he or she is elected as South Korea’s next leader, and the next South Korean administration must make stopping North Korean human rights violations one of its official tasks.
The third demand they made was that South Korean conservatives and liberals cooperate and show unity in improving the dismal North Korean human rights situation.
The ceremony was very well attended, with not a single seat left empty, and it also drew many Korean and foreign journalists, photographers and cameramen before coming to a triumphant close.