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U.S. Policy Toward North Korea: The Case for Instituting a More Effective, Human Rights-Centric Approach

Kenney Auditorium at SAIS
1740 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036

The International Bar Association (North America), Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Defense Forum Foundation, North Korea Freedom Coalition, The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, US-Korea Institute at SAIS, and the Yonsei Center for Human Liberty and Freedom House present a conference to discuss the importance of making human rights a central pillar of U.S. policy toward North Korea.

The conference will bring together decision-makers on Capitol Hill and in the Administration, as well as civil society, to discuss U.S. policy toward North Korea.  A keynote speech will be delivered by Justice Michael Kirby, who was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon to chair the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea. (Please click HERE to read the Commission’s landmark report.)

Conference topics will include:
(1) the current human rights situation in North Korea,
(2) existing and proposed sanctions directed at the North Korean regime
(3) accountability measures for past and ongoing human rights violations in North Korea, and
(4) indigenous and cross-border activities aimed at advancing human rights in North Korea.

Please RSVP here:

Full agenda can be found HERE.


North Korea is a country of extremes. It is home to the longest running human rights disaster in modern times.  It also is among the world’s worst proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.  Further, it is a profoundly destabilizing force in the increasingly turbulent, but strategically vital East Asia region.  Has the decades long “security first” approach toward North Korea, which de-emphasized human rights concerns in the hopes of advancing security related goals, been successful?  Many have argued that a pivot to a more human rights-centric policy is not only a more principled approach to the North Korean challenge, but is a more effective one as well.  The regime’s extreme reactions to discussions about its human rights record, especially since February 2014 when the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea issued its landmark report on human rights, suggests that focusing greater attention on human rights may be an important and under-exploited source of leverage.

Already, there is strong bi-partisan Congressional support to address more forcefully North Korea’s human rights record, as evidenced by proposed sanctions bills currently under consideration in the House and Senate. Given that less problematic countries, including Zimbabwe, Burma and until recently Cuba, are more heavily sanctioned than North Korea, might passage of tougher sanctions bring greater coherence to overall U.S. sanctions policy?

We look forward to seeing you on October 27 and to hearing diverse views on the most effective ways to address one of the most acute and longest running human rights crises of the last half century.


Featured Speakers
Justice Michael Kirby
Chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea