Democracy Promotion: What Exactly?

April 27, 2011 7:30 AM

Whenever I talk to students about North Korea, the first question I get is typically “what can I do to get involved?” We fretted over this in the last chapter of Witness to Transformation. But I finally got around to looking at the National Endowment for Democracy’s Annual Report for 2009 and found that it provided a pretty good overview of a range of external activities related to North Korea. The highlights, with links to some of the organizations, shows a combination of efforts to get news into North Korea, to improve reporting on—and thinking about--the country, and to work with refugees in the South and elsewhere.

Helping refugees.

Baekdu-Halla Association ($30,000) is building networks of young North Korean defectors in South Korea around human rights and democracy issues.

Young Defectors’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights ($30,000) seeks to build the capacity of North Korean defector students in South Korea and to encourage them to become more engaged on issues related to North Korean human rights and democracy.

Network for North Korean Human Rights and Democracy is another useful information source; we noted its recent study on food distribution. It will develop and test a multimedia curriculum for North Korean refugees ($75,000) and also received $35,000 to provide a forum in Seoul on the future of North Korea.

Human rights: research and documentation.

Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NHKR, $150,000). Based in Seoul,

NHKR promotes awareness among South Koreans about North Korea and also runs an annual conference on human rights issues; maintains a Facebook page.

Database Center for North Korean Human Rights ($80,000). The Center is devoted to organizing an archive on human rights conditions in North Korea based on interviews and testimonies. When we tried to access their website at we got a warning message saying that it was a “reported attack page.” Well, I guess from Pyongyang’s perspective…

InterMedia Survey Institute was news to me, but they are getting $50,000 to conduct survey research documenting what North Koreans listen to from abroad. This project is crucial; we not only need to reach North Koreans but need to reach them in ways that hold their attention.

Media. A pleasant surprise in the NED report is the range of activities devoted to thorough reporting on North Korea, as well as efforts to extent that reporting into the country itself.

The Daily NK ($130,000). Truth in advertising: both Marc Noland and I write for the Daily NK, which is (otherwise) devoted to providing high quality coverage of North Korea. An indispensible source.

Free North Korea Radio Station ($150,000) not only provides radio broadcasts, but is another useful source for reporting on the country; it has suffered denial-of-service attacks over the last year. CNN offers a useful profile.

We have blogged on an outstanding English-language volume of reporting from Imjingang Publishing Company. They received $75,000 to produce a Korean-language quarterly magazine, but by far their most subversive activity is training North Korean journalists and smuggling video footage and reporting out of the country.

NK Communications ($175,000) will produce the North Korea Reform Radio program, providing daily broadcasting of news, information, and commentary designed to encourage the development of independent public opinion inside the country.

North Korea Intellectual Solidarity (in Korean) got $70,000 to produce a digital magazine.

Open North Korea, formerly Open Radio for North Korea, got $150,000 to maintain a radio platform that enables organizations and groups in South Korea and elsewhere to broadcast information and feature programs to North Korean audiences; this project sounds like public-interest radio and is line with the idea that we should provide a smorgasbord of content and not just our own propaganda. As with the other radio platforms, the station is also a useful source of reporting on the country.

Radio Free Chosun ($150,000) will broadcast a menu of programs via shortwave radio and maintain a web-based archive of programming for other interested listeners.



Two other organisations through which students in North America can easily get involved:
LiNK (
"Redefining the North Korea crisis through creative storytelling, while providing emergency relief to North Korean refugees and pursuing an end to the human rights crisis." HanVoice (
"A human rights organization established in 2007 dedicated to ending the plight of North Korean refugees in China."

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