South Korea’s Refugee Policy in the Yoon Administration: A New Openness to International Standards?

Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on “South Korea’s Refugee Policy and the Yoon Administration: A New Openness to International Standards?” 

Hosted by:

Christopher H. Smith
Member of Congress
Co-Chair, TLHRC

James P. McGovern
Member of Congress
Co-Chair, TLHRC


  • Jong-Chul Kim, Esq. Senior Researcher, Advocates for Public Interest Law
  • Ethan Hee-Seok Shin, Ph.D., Legal Analyst, Transitional Justice Working Group
  • Moon Jun Sohn, M.D., Ph.D., Director, We All Friends (NGO), Professor, Neurological Surgery, Ilsan Paik Hospital, Inje University, Korea
  • Suzanne Scholte, Ph.D., Seoul Peace Prize Laureate and Chair, North Korea Freedom Coalition
  • Kennji Kizuka, Associate Director, Research & Analysis, Refugee Protection, Human Rights First


Continue reading “South Korea’s Refugee Policy in the Yoon Administration: A New Openness to International Standards?”

June Action Items

For Residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia

NKFC members living in Virginia are sending a letter of thanks to Virginia Senator Tim Kaine for joining Senator Marco Rubio as an original co sponsor of the North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act. If you live in Virginia and would like to join, email me and we will send you the letter to review and sign at: 

HRNK and IBA Press Conference on Monday to Release Report Findings on Crimes Vs. Humanity in North Korea’s Detention Centers

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and the International Bar Association invite you to the public release of their Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korean Detention Centers.  The release will be held on Monday, June 27 from 9:30a.m. to 11:00 am EST at the National Press Club (529 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20045). Three renowned international jurists – who, together, have presided over the most consequential international criminal tribunals since the Nuremberg trials – will deliver remarks.  Announcement and Information here:

May Action Items

International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea’s FREEDOM Prayer Service: I am pleased to share the links to last month’s interactive prayer service for the International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea’s Freedom.We received many positive response and hundreds of people participated from all over the world. You can imagine what that meant to the North Korean escapees! It was be an amazing time to lift this country and its people to the Lord for their freedom and human rights during this prayer service as we all prepared to fast and pray all over the world for North Korea’s freedom.  Here is the link to watch online in either English or Korean:

NKFC’s UN Panel Unshackle the Women of North Korea: Once again, the North Korea Freedom Coalition hosted a panel during the UN Commission on the Status of Women to specifically focus on the women of North Korea. You can hear from courageous North Korean women who shared their eyewitness testimonies about the human rights conditions North Korean women face in North Korea, China, as overseas workers, and the struggles the survivors face in South Korea especially separated mothers and children. Here is the link for watching online:

Prayer Service for the International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea’s FREEDOM

Dear Friends:

It gives me great pleasure to invite you to join a very special prayer service with North Korean defector pastors and others to launch the 

International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea’s FREEDOM which will be held around the world on April 28th.  

We are holding this virtual online prayer service on April 27th 7-8:30 pm EST/April 28th 8 am-9:30 am Korea that will include simultaneous translation in Korean and English of prayers and testimonies for North Korea’s freedom as we kick off our international day of prayer and fasting.  This will be an amazing time to lift this country and its people to the Lord for their freedom and human rights.

To register to participate in this special online prayer service, visit

Also, remember the April 28th website will have resources for all who are praying and fasting for North Korean’s freedom on April 28th.

Acta Non Verba,


Fate of North Korean Refugees in China Presents an Historic Opportunity for Moon

By Suzanne Scholte, Seoul Peace Prize Laureate

For these closing weeks of his Presidency, President Moon Jae-in has an unprecedented and historic opportunity before him: to literally save the lives of hundreds of North Korean refugees currently detained in the People’s Republic of China.  These unprecedented and historic factors have put Moon in a position to save the lives of innocent children, women and men who were simply seeking a better life.  Here’s why: first, North Korea’s border remains closed making it impossible over the last two years for China to forcefully repatriate any North Koreans back to North Korea.   In fact, terrified of the COVID pandemic, North Korea was one of the first nations to close its border.  Second, South Korean did not join the United States and other nations last month to boycott the Beijing Olympics.  Hence, South Korea is in a better position than most democratic nations who did to request humanitarian consideration for these refugees who face certain beatings, torture, imprisonment and even execution if they are forced back to North Korea.  Their repatriation is likely to happen as soon as the border reopens as China wants them gone.  An illustration of how much China wants to depopulate their detention centers is the fact that last year they released female North Korean refugees, who were victims of trafficking, back into the hands of their abusers because they could not force them back to North Korea.

Those North Koreans remaining in detention in China are in especially grave danger because they escaped in a time when escaping North Korea is more difficult than ever. This means they had to have resources, and to have resources, they must fall into two categories: they are elite Korean Worker’s Party members with access to resources OR they had family in the Republic of Korea that provided support to get them out of North Korea.  And what is the fate for members of the Korean Workers party when they are repatriated to North Korea: death by either public execution or slow death in a political prison camp.  And what does the DPRK do to North Koreans when it discovers they were trying to get to South Korea: death either by public execution or slow death in a political prison camp.

Thus, Moon is the one person in the world today who can save all these Korean children, women, and men from death by requesting that China allow them safe passage as a humanitarian gesture.  It is also an historic time because once again Kim Jong Un is relentlessly testing missiles, and it is an historic fact that China has shown a willingness to allow large numbers of North Korean refugees’ safe passage to the Republic of Korea to show its displeasure with the DPRK’s missile tests. Moon said during his last address before the United Nations that he would work to build “a Korean Peninsula that promotes shared prosperity and cooperation,” and that he would “make ceaseless efforts until my very last day in office.”

As long as Kim Jong Un denies human rights to the people of North Korea there can be no shared prosperity for Koreans living north of the DMZ, and thus those refugees currently held in China can only have prosperity and a future if Moon will act on their behalf.

It could be the greatest, most lasting impact of his Presidency as he could literally rescue refugees being led away to death.  Who knows if among these refugees is a future President of South Korea as it is important to remember that Moon’s own family were also once refugees? During the Korean War when U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine ships safely rescued nearly 100,000 North Korea civilians from Hungnam and safely relocated them to South Korea for resettlement, it was Moon’s own family that was among the rescued.  Because of that rescue Moon was given the opportunity of freedom and prosperity and a future in South Korea to become the President of the Republic of Korea.

Over 20 former U.S. Government officials recently wrote a bipartisan appeal to President Moon calling for his help for these specific refugees writing, “We hope that you will seize this opportunity as it would be an amazing legacy of your administration if you were to safely rescue these children, women and men before you leave office in May.”  The signatories were officials who served in every U.S. Presidential administration since the 1970s including Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Please, President Moon, this an historic opportunity to act on their behalf!

March Action Items for North Korea’s Freedom and Human Rights

Dear Friends: 

Some action items for your consideration and some great news to report!  First up, please consider joining the following events.

Acta Non Verba,


Join the Team Organizing the International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea to be held April 27/28th

The anniversary of the very first North Korea Freedom Day is coming up next month on April 28th to mark the largest gathering for North Korea human rights that had ever occurred outside the Korean peninsula.  That day approximately a thousand people from all over the USA rallied on Capitol Hill on April 28, 2004, with North Korean defectors and South Korean, Japanese, and Canadian human rights activists.  That day was cited as the pivotal moment that led to the passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act that Fall.  We are once again marking that day as an International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea’s freedom.  We expect this to be the most important day of the year as we will also hold an interactive prayer session on April 27th 7-8:30 pm(EST)/April 28th 8-9:30 AM (Seoul) to pray with North Korean defector pastors.  Thank you to the team forming so far: Anna Yang on global website, Alana Johnson on preparing prayers for the day, Johnny Park on translations.  Helping prepare for the interactive prayer service are Pastors Chang Ho Lim and Kang Chul Ho and Kim Seong Min is helping confirm North Korea defectors who are now pastors representing every province of the DPRK. Jason West is helping with the platform, and I am working on overall service and hope to get Dr. Thomas Belke to join us as he believes this is the most important thing we can do for North Korea.  Everyone will be invited to participate, but anyone wishing to help on planning, please let me know. This would include help reviewing prayers, plans, translations, etc.

North Korea Freedom Day 2004

It is Time to go to Seoul!! North Korea Freedom Week May 22-28, 2022

It was confirmed by the North Korean defector leaders that the 19th annual North Korea Freedom Week will be held May 22-28th in Seoul.  You may recall we decided to have NKFW 2022 in May because of the critical South Korean election this month.  So. please consider joining the delegation from the USA — or from wherever you are — to travel to Seoul to support the people of North Korea and everyone working for their freedom and human rights.  More details will be forthcoming, but please mark those dates on your calendar.

DPRK exhibit and posters to foster hate for Americans.

Reporting on a Very Special Broadcast to North Korea

Finally, some great news to report: we had wonderful participation by Members of the U.S. Congress in our special messages that we broadcast to North Korea for Seollal on Free North Korea Radio.  This program has become very popular among our FNKR listeners in the DPRK as a powerful way to show the people of North Korea how much we care about them.  Despite the steady anti American propaganda they are fed starting from childhood and throughout their lives that we are their enemy, through this program they learn the truth of how much Americans are concerned about them.

We want to acknowledge and profusely thank Senators John Barasso of Wyoming, Chris Coons of Delaware, Ted Cruz of Texas,  Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jim Risch of Idaho, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Representatives Steve Chabot of Ohio, Young Kim of California,  Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Alan Lowenthal of California, Michael McCaul of Texas, Gregory Meeks of New York, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Maria Salazar of Florida, Chris Smith of New Jersey, and Rob Wittman of Virginia for their powerful messages that were broadcast to the people of North Korea for the year of the Tiger.

UN CSW 2022: Unshackle the Women of North Korea

March 24, 2022 at 6:30 PM Eastern

Please join us for our annual parallel event during the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Our event will feature personal testimonies on the dire human rights situation for women in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as refugees in the People’s Republic of China, and as overseas workers. We will be joined by two North Korean women from Freedom Speakers International.

Tickets are free, but we encourage you to donate if you are able. Donations are tax-deductible to the maximum amount allowed by law and will go to cover event expenses for this and other North Korean human rights events.

Special thanks to Jubilee Campaign for their work on our behalf before the United Nations and both the Defense Forum Foundation and the Isabella Foundation for financial and logistical support.


Introductory Remarks:

Suzanne Scholte, Chairman, North Korea Freedom Coalition

North Korean Escapee Panel:

Songmi Han, Freedom Speakers International
Minhee Na, Freedom Speakers International
Sydney Kochan, Jubilee Campaign (Moderator)



Songmi is co-author with Casey Lartigue of the newly released book Greenlight to Freedom: A North Korean Daughter’s Search for Her Mother & Herself.

Songmi Han escaped to South Korea in 2011, following her mother to freedom. She kept her identity as a North Korean refugee hidden until this year after going through counseling to get over her childhood trauma. Songmi is a college student studying social welfare at a university in South Korea and a Special Assistant with Freedom Speakers International (FSI). She loves cooking and hopes to open a North Korean restaurant one day.

Visit for more information.


Minhee Na grew up in North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang before escaping to South Korea in 2015. She is majoring in communications at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul. She is a commentator, TV personality, and YouTuber who discusses a wide range of North Korean issues.

Minhee joined the Freedom Speakers International (FSI) English Empowerment program in 2017 and joined the organization’s Keynote Speakers Network in 2018.

Visit to find Minhee’s Korean language YouTube channel.

Save North Korean Refugees Day 2021 Acknowledgements

Dear Friends

Please find attached the acknowledgements to those who participated in last month’s Save North Korean Refugees Day 2021.

Despite everything going on in the world these days, I am ever more optimistic and hopeful our petitions and appeals will be heard thanks to the people listed in this report who have continued to speak out on behalf of the North Korean refugees wherever they are in the world.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Acta Non Verba,


North Korea Freedom Week 2021 Acknowledgements

Dear Friends: 

On behalf of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, it is my great honor and pleasure to provide you the full report on the 18th annual North Korea Freedom Week whose theme this year was “Open! North Korea: Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Borders.”  Please find attached the acknowledgements of the many folks and many organizations that participated to make the week a huge success so that we could accomplish our objective: rejuvenate and inspire the defector community in the Republic of Korea, who are living under an oppressive atmosphere, AND gain valuable insight from them about what is happening in North Korea.  We set out to inspire the North Koreans and they ended up inspiring us with the amazing information they are getting out of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and by their pledge to re-commit themselves to the freedom of their homeland and the human rights and dignity of the North Korean people.  Just a few links and highlights for you below, but PLEASE check out the full attached report which includes the opening ceremony, prayer vigil, visit to the ROK embassy, day of prayer and fasting, etc. and all those who participated this year especially the North Korean eyewitnesses. 

Volunteer members of the North Korea Freedom Coalition made both video and written transcripts for you of the main NGO events in both English and Korean – so you can read or watch the powerful sessions that were held during North Korea Freedom Week 2021.  Special thanks goes to Jason West who helped with the technical platform, so that we could all be together virtually during the NKFW panel sessions and the North Korea Freedom Coalition meeting, which was open to the public for the first time.  Thank you to the Defense Forum Foundation, Katrina Lantos Swett and the Tom Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice, Wendy Wright and Christian Freedom International, Dr. Pavel Klein and the Isabella Foundation, and Seung-il Shin for donating to cover the platform costs.  Katrina and I also serve as officers with the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, whose Executive Director, Greg Scarlatiou, provided inspiring remarks for the opening Ceremony along with other distinguished NGO leaders. Thank you also to Jason for helping prepare the videos and transcripts and to our wonderful translators and volunteers Helen Park, BJ Choi, Teresa Ost, and Johnny Park for helping create English and Korean transcripts of the following NGO panels: 

Open Hearts: hosted by Nick Eberstadt and Olivia Schieber of the American Enterprise Institute, with Colonel David Maxwell of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies:

Open Minds: hosted by Bruce Klingner and Olivia Enos of the Heritage Foundation:

Open Borders
: hosted by Dr. Pavel Klein of the Isabella Foundation:

We are also very grateful to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Tony Blinken for the very powerful statement that was made by the U.S. State Department to recognize North Korea Freedom Week on the anniversary of the first North Korea Freedom Day:

Also, you will love this video: Anna Yang took excerpts from the messages from Members of the US Congress that were broadcast on Free North Korea Radio for this year’s Seollal Holiday and produced a special video with the background music Edelweiss (Bless my homeland, forever!) that was played at the opening ceremony.  The North Korean defectors were so moved by this video showing how much Americans care about the people of North Korea, that they copied it onto flash drives and have been sending it secretly by various means into North Korea since last month:

Now, on a very sad note, since North Korea Freedom Week, members of the South Korean military intercepted some of these flash drives and — because of the new law in South Korea banning information to North Korea — turned them over to the South Korean police which have launched an investigation into the defectors who sent the messages.  So, we will see if defectors get fined and jailed for sending powerful, inspiring and hopeful messages by U.S. lawmakers to the people of North Korea.  Did I mention the “oppressive atmosphere” in South Korea?  Oh yes, I did.

Please be inspired by the attached report as we work to open the hearts and minds of the people of North Korea with truth and long for the time when the borders will be open.  Also, finally note the next meeting of the North Korea Freedom Coalition will be Thursday, July 29th 7 pm EST — if you are not a member yet, you can join here.

Acta Non Verba,


North Korea Freedom Week is Next Week!

Please Join Us for the 18th Annual North Korea Freedom Week 2021

OPEN! NORTH KOREA… Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Borders

Dear Friends:

I am pleased to invite you to join the 18th Annual North Korea Freedom Week which will be held April 25 – May lst, 2021/(April 24-30 for DC Scheduling).  Details below include the links to participate in events during that week for and with North Korean escapees.  Translation will be provided for all NGO sponsored events.

Sunday, April 25 (Saturday night in USA) and Monday (Sunday in USA) opening prayer service and opening day in Seoul which folks in the USA will be able to watch virtually.

Remember those of you sending virtual messages of encouragement,  we will need them by close of business this Thursday, to translate and prepare for our friends in Korea.

Monday, April 26, 5-7 pm EST (Tuesday, April 27 6-8 am in Seoul): Discussing the theme of Open hearts…will be Nicholas Eberstadt and Olivia Schieber of the American Enterprise Institute who are hosting several high ranking North Korean escapees for a discussion of the human rights situation in North Korea…and the human rights situation in South Korea.  They will be joined by David Maxwell of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.  Topics to be explored will be ways to reach the elites in power to open their hearts to the truth and why that has become more difficult under the current government in South Korea. To register for AEI’s Event Open Hearts visit:

Wednesday, April 28:   April 28th is the anniversary of the first North Korea Freedom Day, and thus once again we will set aside an International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea’s FREEDOM.  Alana Johnson is compiling powerful prayers that will be posted for all online who want to join us in prayer that day.  Anna Yang has created this website where you can sign up now to join at

Wednesday, April 28th: 5-7 pm EST (Thursday, April 29 6-8 am in Seoul): Discussing the theme of Open minds…will be Bruce Klingner and Olivia Enos of the Heritage Foundation who will host two panel sessions: one with North Korean escapees explaining what led them to escape, ie. what opened their minds to the outside world, was it K-pop, movies, radio broadcasting, soap operas, leaflets, and then a second session will feature North Korea defector NGO leaders who have been leading efforts to open more minds by getting information into North Korea through brilliant methods utilizing the land, the sea and the air.  To register for the Heritage Foundation’s Event Open Minds visit:

Wednesday, April 28: 7-9 pm EST (Thursday, April 29 8-10 AM in Seoul ): Discussing the theme of Open borders…will be Dr. Pavel Klein of the Isabella Foundation who will host a session on the current state of the vulnerable population especially children in North Korea and how can humanitarian assistance be provided to address this population.  North Korean escapees will address those issues as well as explore ways to open borders so that divided families can reunite and be in communication with each other.  To register for the Isabella Foundation’s Event Open Borders visit:

Thursday, April 29 7-9 pm EST (Friday, April 30 8-10 am in Seoul): For the first time ever, the North Korea Freedom Coalition will open its regular meeting to the general public for a free for all exchange on action items going forward for the freedom, human rights and dignity of the North Korean people, as the NKFC’s motto is Acta Non Verba.  We will hear from the top leaders among the defectors working for peaceful regime change and ways that we can work to save the lives of North Korean refugees currently in peril. 

Friday, April 30, 12 noon EST On Friday there will be a closing ceremony (Saturday morning in Seoul), so for those of us in Washington, D.C. area, the North Korea Freedom Coalition will organize a peaceful vigil at 12:00 noon on Friday, April 30 to focus on the lives of the North Korean refugees currently detained in China and the two women recently given back to their abusers.  As noted previously, we usually demonstrate at the PRC embassy, but things are different right now: these North Koreans would be in South Korea right now if Moon would act.  So, we plan to assemble at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea this time and peacefully and respectfully ask for action on their behalf. To join the A team and take a stand for these refugees, email me.

Please join us for NKFW 2021 whenever you can from wherever you are.

Acta Non Verba,

Suzanne Scholte
Seoul Peace Prize Laureate
President, Defense Forum Foundation
Chair, North Korea Freedom Coalition