European NGOs on North Korea

March 4, 2015 7:00 AM

Corrected March 10 2015.

While in residence at the East-West Center, Betsy Kawamura filled me in on the landscape of European NGOs working on North Korea. She estimates there are over 1,000 North Korean refugees scattered across Europe, with the most sizable contingent probably in Britain (between 630-1000 according to The Independent.)

However, the ISIS landscape is making it more difficult for virtually all refugees to land. The Independent story claims that Britain is channeling North Koreans who land in the country to  South Korea because they automatically enjoy citizenship there. This means one less escape valve for North Koreans reaching third countries; in any case, North Korean refugees should have at least some say over their desired relocation. (In earlier posts [here and here] I take up some of the arcana of US asylum law that blocks us taking in North Korean refugees who are "firmly settled" in South Korea except under extraordinary circumstances).

In an outstanding piece of local journalism with international implications, Paul Fisher takes us inside the community of New Malden where over 10,000 Koreans—North and South—live and jostle against one another ideologically.

Kawamura’s own Women4Nonviolence, based in Oslo, focuses on the adverse effects of war, conflict and military bases on women, and the ways that subsequent UN action, beginning with Resolution 1325 might help (UN resources on the issue here). Kawamura has a particular interest in North Korean refugees and has been an advocate on their behalf. One feature of the site: links to several moving photo galleries related to Asia by Ana Elisa Fuentes, John Bennett, Morten Hvaal and Kawamura herself.

Among the refugees that Kawamura has worked with is Ji Hyun Park, who subsequently testified before the Commission of Inquiry. We were unaware of the short film done on Park (under the alias Yong Mi Park)—Under a Different Sky—in which she tells her story. Several weeks ago, Amnesty International UK also released a video featuring Park. The UK branch of AI provides its own coverage of the issue, replete with some local activism.

Also out of the UK (and a government body rather than an NGO): a particularly active All-Parliamentary Group on North Korea. Recently they have held public hearings on the role of women and trafficking and released a report on religious persecution. They provide an important platform for a variety of NGOs working on the issue.

Other groups that may be of interest:

  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide is not only working the religious issues, with several reports on the question, but is involved with the refugee community in Britain as well.
  • For German readers, Nordkorea-Info is an active blog site with a lot of detailed coverage of developments.

If any of our readers are involved in European organizations working on North Korea that we have missed, feel free to post information on them in the comment section below. We have argued that Europe has a potentially important role to play on the issue, particularly as a locus for human rights dialogue with Pyongyang (if it ever decides to join the world on the issue).


betsy k

Thank you so very much Stephen !! :-)

Yann Werner Prell

The Manna Mission of Europe is running the "Charity Bakery" project. The charity organization registered in UK is setting up bakeries in North Korea: A German NGO is helping deaf, blind and nondisabled children in North Korea: I got to know both NGOs through my work for another German NGO, called Korea Verband ( Our organization deals with North and South Korea and focuses on division and reunification, migrants, the 'comfort women' issue, and rapprochement in East Asia. We organize public discussions, summer schools, and seminars and have several publications (mostly in German, few in English).

Billy Davis

Many thanks for the interesting article, and for mentioning the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK), the organisation that I work for. What is not so clear in this article is that Jihyun Park actually works for us at the EAHRNK as our North Korean Outreach; Project Officer. Also, whilst I agree that it is more active than some of its European counterparts, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea is not an NGO, but in fact a body of the UK Parliament, made up of MPs from the House of Commons and Peers from the House of Lords.

Sandra Fahy

Ha! Just what I was looking for, thanks Steph! Keep up the amazing work.


Hi Bill - nice to greet you here on PIIE - I co presented with JiHyun at the UK Parliament this past January. I've known JiHyun rather well for last several years. We first met up at her home in north England before she started her campaigning. Hope to meet you in person soon! I am headed to UN Commission on Status of Women meeting in New York from this Sunday to campaign on North Korea refugee issues. Best !

Rainer Rippe

The German Political Foundations: Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Konrad Adenauer Foundation Hanns Seidel Foundation. Friedrich Ebert Foundation Best regards, Rainer Rippe. Senior Program Officer (DPRK). Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Bob King

Steph-Thanks for the good rundown on some of the European NGOs active in DPRK. I enthusiastically agree with your last paragraph that European NGOs can play an important role on human rights and humanitarian aid for the DPRK. One issue the Independent article, which you quoted, has wrong is the statement that "The Independent story notes that Britain has recently followed the unfortunate American example of shipping North Koreans back to South Korea because they automatically enjoy citizenship there." The U.S. does not send North Korean refugees back to South Korea. If a refugee indicates an interest in coming to the U.S. they are processed, and they are given every opportunity. They must go through the screening required by Congress of all refugees wanting admission to the U.S. The number who choose to come to America is much smaller than the number who choose to go to South Korea because in the South they receive automatic citizenship, better resettlement benefits, and they find a familiar culture and language. If they want to come to the U.S., we don't turn them away.


Ambassador King: Thanks very much for the correction; it has been made in the post itself. The United States does not, of course, "ship North Koreans back to South Korea'; if they come to us, they are offered asylum opportunities. However there is an ongoing issue of how North Korean refugees--and anywhere they land--are made aware of their resettlement options. My view is that they should be able to make this judgment independently and without any presupposition that South Korean citizenship is the only option. There is an additional legal wrinkle in the US that I talked about in two earlier posts based on some involvement with legal cases in California. Once North Korean refugees have taken up South Korean citizenship--in legal argot are "firmly settled"--it becomes extraordinarily difficult for them to move on to a third country. I posted on this in 2012, although there may be new developments. A question for US asylum law is whether these restrictions should be lifted: and Thanks for your interest in the blog. Stephan Haggard


PSCORE (People for a Successfull COrean REunification) is a NGO based in Seoul with focus on the human rights situation in the DPRK. It has several programs to address this issue, such as an education program in which North Korean defectors receive one-on-one tutoring in any subject they like and an English class every Wednesday, which runs already for the last 5 and a half years. Furthermore, PSCORE tackles the issues of Korean unificiation and the human rights conditions in North Korea in another program. It tries to address these issues by holding seminars and campaigns to raise awareness of human rights abuses, and undertaking rescue missions for North Korean refugees living overseas. Moreover, PSCORE has consultative status with UN ECOSOC since 2012 and attends the yearly Human Rights Council session about North Korean Human Rights in Geneva. Thanks!

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