GPF Hosts North Korean Young Leaders Assembly

Darlene Nowlin
August 23, 2023

Global Peace Foundation (GPF) recently hosted the North Korean Young Leaders Assembly, an event to bring together a group of North Korean escapees, who gathered in Washington, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia to share their stories and meet with policymakers to help shape policy in Korea and the United States.

“I am glad that I had an opportunity to support the North Korean Young Leaders Assembly here in the Washington area and present the Global Peace Foundation and our innovative values-based approach to peacebuilding as well as our commitment to a Free and Unified Korea,” said GPF International President James P. Flynn. Their visit and the important meetings they participated in over just a few days made a positive impact on Korean policy.”

In a meeting with Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the young leaders shared the tragic reality of North Korean human rights violations through their individual experiences.

“Today, I met with young North Korean defectors who suffered under Pyongyang’s human rights violations and abuses. I am humbled by their courage and thankful for their continued human rights advocacy. The Security Council cannot be silent on this matter of international peace and security any longer,” said U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield in a statement on social media.

The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea (ROK) to the United Nations hosted a Roundtable Discussion with North Korean Young Leaders/Defectors and the young leaders testified to more than 90 diplomats and staff from different countries about the human rights abuses by the North Korean regime and the suffering of the North Korean people. In addition, they provided the background of their escapes, the status of DPRK human rights issues, as well as their prospects after defection, calling for the international community’s attention and action on the DPRK human rights problem.

For the first time in six years, the issue of North Korean human rights was reintroduced in the U.N. Security Council in August. Both Ambassadors mentioned the young leaders in their statements. They urged these diplomats and UN members to play a responsible role within the U.N.

The young leaders also visited the offices of Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Rob Wittman, where they made constructive suggestions about the U.S. North Korean human rights laws and bills related to North Korea.

The young leaders also met with the Director of the Korean Peninsula at the White House National Security Council. During the meeting, the discussions focused on North Korea’s human rights concerns and their implications for security and stability. The group also shared insights with officials from the U.S. Department of State, covering diverse areas such as human rights, labor, and democracy.

At the Heritage Foundation, Cho Tae-yong, Korean Ambassador to the U.S., U.S.; Representative Young Kim (CA-40), chairwoman of the Indo-Pacific Subcommittee; and Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services, and General Government (FSGG) were invited to share how leaders in the United States think and debate policies with the young leaders.

Amid these experiences, the young leaders broadened their network, connecting with policymakers, practitioners, and experts. This network expansion extended to the Korean-American community in Virginia, where they raised awareness about North Korean human rights. Meetings with Non-Governmental Organizations and the president of the National Endowment of Democracy (NED) strengthened the network and support of the North Korean escapees.

Historical site visits to the Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Philip Jaisohn Memorial House in Pennsylvania, Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, and the Library of Congress allowed young leaders to learn about the history of independence movements and founding processes in the United States and Korea.

“The North Korean Young Leaders Assembly equipped these individuals with essential skills to actively contribute to the establishment of a democratic system in North Korea,” said GPF Fellow Hyunseung Lee. Simultaneously, their efforts shed light on the country’s human rights issues on the international stage, positioning them as catalysts for positive change.”

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