North Korean Defector NGO Leaders to testify on Operation Truth and North Korea’s current internal situation and the regime’s strategy to maintain power

Choi Jeong-hun

North Korean People’s Liberation Front

Upon landing in South Korea in December 2006, his work focused on informing the public of security issues regarding North Korea. He also has been sharing outside information with the people, especially the North Korean military. He believes that the collapse of the North Korean society may be imminent, if the international community continues to support the defectors’ activism. Born in 1971, he was raised in Hyesan, Yangang Province. He served as the platoon sergeant at the Mirim University security platoon. Kim graduated from Kim Il Sung Politics College and was assigned as a political officer at the 144th battalion. After being discharge from the miliary, he studied at a provincial party training center to become a member of the Workers’ Party and served as a junior party secretary at a construction company in Hyesan. Choi asserts that the end of North Korean system, which is dominated by North Korea’s market generation, is imminent. He believes that the broad expansion of human rights efforts will lead to the downfall of the North Korean regime. He will call for the end of the Chinese government’s forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees.

Huh Kwang-il

Committee for Democratization of North Korea

Hu Kang-il has been leading the Committee for Democratization of North Korea, one of the first organizations founded by North Korean defectors, since 2014. He emphasizes the importance of cooperation between the international community and North Korean defector organizations. He asserts that Kim Jong Un’s ever-growing aggression demonstrates that the international community must strengthen its sanctions on the regime. He believes that humanitarian aid to North Korea does not contribute to efforts to advance freedom and human rights. He also participates in the information campaign through radio broadcasting and rice bottle launches. Born in Kimchaek, he studied at Cheongjin College of Shipbuilding Industry. Hu worked at Cheongjin dockyard as a North Korean Democratic Youth League’s party cell secretary. He was dispatched to Russia in 1986 as a DPRK forestry representative. He escaped in 1993 and took two years to reach. His career in technology management continues as he works for the Korea Electric Power Corporation in Seoul. Hu wishes to emphasize the significance of transmitting outside information into North Korea for the people’s right to information. To facilitate such efforts, he strives to re-establish a system of informants in North Korea, so he could circulate outside information through them.

Jang Sei-ul

Korean Unification Solidarity

Jang Sei-ul entered South Korea in 2008 when he realized that there was no future for him as a military officer in North Korea. He aspired to live in freedom. Jang’s ultimate goal is to end the Kim regime and liberate the people from human rights abuses by sending outside information into the country through rice bottle launches. Further, he believes that it is imperative to honor the freedom fighters in North Korea who sacrificed themselves for freedom. Through his testimony, he wishes to give hope to North Koreans who operate as informants sending information to the outside world. Born in 1969, Jang will focus on the importance of remembering and honoring the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives by communicating their stories within North Korea. He further seeks to highlight the importance of the flow of information into North Korea to encourage an understanding of the values of a democratic society.

Kim Heung-kwang

North Korea Intellectual Solidarity

Since his defection in 2004, Kim has been actively engaged in informing the outside world about North Korea and supporting the defector community. Since 2009, he has been leading the North Korea Intellectual Solidarity to focus on receiving new information from North Korea and to analyze its domestic and foreign policy. He asserts that Kim Jong Un’s oppressive and disruptive behaviors have become more blatant, and his border security directives for the military to install electric fences and landmines have increased his control over people and worsened poverty in North Korea. He seeks to expose the Kim family’s atrocities against his own people. He was born in 1960 in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province. He was educated at Kimchaek University of Technology, and taught as a professor at Hamheung College of Computer Technology and Hamheung University of Communism. He was also a censorship officer and oversee foreign content criticizing socialism. He recalls that when he first encountered South Korean content, he was shocked. After he shared his honest opinion with his superiors, he was labeled as a traitor and sent to a labor camp. Through the process, he witnessed the cruel oppression of North Koreans and decided to defect to South Korea for freedom. Kim will assess approaches to advance human rights and unification of the two Koreas to allow North Koreans to pursue happiness. He wishes to expose the generations of Kim’s atrocities and share his views on the current human rights situation.

Kim Jung-geum

North Korean Writers-in-Exile PEN Literature

Reaching South Korea in 2005, she worked as a Free North Korea Radio reporter. Currently, she is a central committee member of the Korea Writers’ Association, chair and publisher of the North Korean Writers-in-Exile PEN Literature. Born in 1968 in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, she was a literature counselor for North Hamgyong Writers’ Alliance under North Korea Central Writers’ Alliance. She participated in various composition contests at national and provincial levels. She also served as a propaganda agitator of the North Hamgyong Political Officers storm troop squad. She had been a vice chair and lecturer for the Chongjin Sunam first district women’s alliance committee. Kim Jung-geum plans to express her gratitude to those in the United States fighting for human rights of North Koreans and hopes to encourage active participation among the international community to improve human rights.

Kim Ji-young

Free North Korea Radio

Born in 1982 in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, she was raised in an elite family but defected to South Korea in 2012. Both of her parents were Workers’ Party members, and her grandfather was recognized as a national hero. She studied at Kim Il Sung University. Although she could have become a government official like her parents, Kim Il Sung’s death and the Arduous March changed her outlook. Women in the jangmadang market, who had been persecuted as “betrayers of Communism”, began to create and expand the capitalist economy in North Korea, while their husbands were still forced to work daily. As she realized the power of money in North Korea, Kim helped her aunt run a business when she was a college student. Soon after her graduation, she opened a restaurant which became so successful that she started another branch. Kim’s story displays how North Korean society has been transformed by women striving for survival. Kim will describe the process that led to the creation of the market in North Korea and how outside information slowly but decidedly influenced the minds of youth despite the Kim regime’s surveillance and control. She believes that the growth of jangmadang market economy is not because of the regime but has become a crucial and important asset of the people and was built especially by the strength of women. She affirms that, while the Kim Jong Un regime has recently intensified ideological indoctrination and demands loyalty from the youth, the market generation's loyalty is merely a survival tactic, unlike the boundless loyalty of the previous generations. She wishes to explain how overseas North Korean laborers contribute to the further development of North Korean understanding of the outside reality. 

Lee So-ra

Korea of All

Since defecting to South Korea in 2008, she has been the secretary-general of the Korea of All. She wishes to discuss her organization’s goal to rescue Japanese abductees from the North Korean government. Further, she seeks to expose the reality of the Japanese abductees and their suffering of human rights violations. She was born in 1970 in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province. After graduating from a mechanical engineering college, she was employed as an engineer for a manufacturing firm in North Korea. She also participated in the jangmadang market to provide for her family during the Arduous March. Lee So-ra aims to reveal the reality of Japanese abductees and Japanese-Koreans lured by the North Korean regime and the human rights abuses they suffered.

Lee Sun-ok

Korean Unification Solidarity and Former Informant

Lee currently works for the Korean Unification Solidarity after defecting to reach South Korea in 2014. Born in 1980 in Musan, North Hamgyong Province, she was an informant for Free North Korea Radio getting information to the outside world. After the State Security Ministry discovered her actions, she was imprisoned, tortured, and investigated for nearly twenty months. Her main motivation, at the time, was to simply provide for her family, not necessarily to promote democracy. The State Security Ministry forged documents to torture her and falsely accused her of being a spy. Before her defection, she provided for her family by smuggling. Lee wishes to testify about the espionage investigation tactics by the State Security Ministry, the impact of outside radio broadcasts on the people, and the lives of North Korean women.

Park Jung-oh


Park Jung-oh defected with his five family members in 1998. Park established Kuensaem Education Center, an after-school education center for North Korean defector children. He continues to support North Korean defector students’ settlement and remedial education. Moreover, he has been active in disseminating outside information with North Koreans through rice bottle launches. He was born in 1968 at Hyesan, Yanggang Province. Upon completing Communication College, Park was employed at a radio wave surveillance station from 1993 to 1998 as a supervisor. He continued his education at Yangang University majoring in agriculture and graduated in 1998. Park Jung-oh will underscore the importance of getting information into North Korea and its role in advancing knowledge and the perception of the outside world. 

Park Sang-hak

Fighters for Free North Korea

Park Sang-hak focuses on sending information into North Korea through balloons as a leader of the Fighters for Free North Korea. Since his defection in 2000, he has been sending leaflets to North Korea, hoping to open hearts and minds of the people. He believes that the leaflet launches are every North Korea defector’s duty. He was born in 1968 at Hyesan, Yanggangdo and graduated from Kimchaek Institute of Technology. He served as the propaganda unit officer until he defected. Park Sang-hak will discuss how the leaflet launch constitutes a labor of love among North Korean defectors to expose the Kim Jong Un regime’s corruption and share the values of democracy. Further, he insists that the leaflets must be continuously sent to North Korea, for the Kim regime abhors them. By dispatching leaflets to North Korea, he trusts that the messages from the outside world could enlighten and transform North Koreans. 

Special Witnesses for NKFW 2024

Bae Gwang-min

Free North Korea Radio

After arriving in South Korea in 2008, he works as a reporter for Free North Korea Radio. He also started his own food business. Born in 1973 in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, he graduated from Light Industry School. He worked as a train station announcer for Hyesan station, and participated in the jangmadang market. As a railroad worker who experienced the development of the market as a result of the Arduous March, he will describe the reality of the jangmadang system, along with the corruption and the executions among the elites. Testifying about the ways of smuggling South Korean contents into North Korea, he will share stories about the growth of the market, spread of the Hallyu contents, and various facets of life to inform the international community about the state of human rights in North Korea.

Bae YOO-Jin

Market Participant and Distributor of South Korean Content

Bae Yoo-Jin was a singer for the Yanggang Art Group and a laborer of the Yanggang Trade Management Department before she joined the market system to feed her family after the North Korean government stopped providing food rations and salaries during the Arduous March. As the Jangmadang started to expand, Chinese goods started to be smuggled into each region in North Korea through the border area. She either smuggled the Chinese goods in or worked with the customs to distribute her goods to each region in North Korea. In early 2000, as the South Korean culture started to spread out, North Koreans’ interest in South Korean dramas became strong. She smuggled in South Korean dramas on CDs from China, copied the CDs at home, and distributed them across North Korea. As the distribution of South Korean dramas became a profitable market, the surveillance and control of prosecutors became more intensified. So, she started to distribute South Korean dramas with other goods to cover up her South Korean drama distribution business. Publicly, she was a wholesale businesswoman, but in reality, she contributed to the spread of South Korean culture throughout North Korea.

Ji Hannah

Survivor of Forcible Repatriation and Mother

Following her forced repatriation to North Korea from China twice, she successfully defected to South Korea in 2015 on her third defection attempt. She then managed to save enough money and risked her life to return to China to save her two sons in 2019. Born in 1964 in Shingwa, Yanggang Province, she is a survivor of the North Korean political prison camps and the Chinese detention centers. While she believes that the only crime she committed was to go to China to earn money, the Kim regime imprisoned and tortured her, treating her like a serious criminal. She was also an entrepreneur who lost everything during the currency reform in North Korea. Ji wants to testify about what it means for North Korean women to be forcefully repatriated to North Korea from China.

Kim Yi-hyeok

Defector of Nine-Family-Members by Boat

After successfully leading his nine-member family’s defection to South Korea on a boat in 2023, he has been studying to become a commercial mariner. Before he defected, he picked up rice bottles floating on the sea that were sent as part of Operation Truth. Born in 1992 in Haeju, Hwanghae Province, he worked as a fisherman. His grandparents were originally from South Korea which allowed him to understand the true nature of the North Korean regime. Although his father was an ordinary laborer, he was an honest and brave man from whom he learned alot. Because he worked so hard, Kim became the youngest person to become a regional boat captain for a reputable fishery facility in North Korea. While he sufficiently provided for his family, he desired to offer a better future for his children. He decided to defect to South Korea with his entire family on a boat. Kim will explain how South Korean cultural contents influence North Koreans; how the Kim regime controls the populace including the fishery industry; and how those who pick up the rice bottles including the Bibles from the sea begin to change their perspectives. He also wishes to recount his sea experience crossing the Northern Limit Line to escape and the stark reality of what the North Korean people are facing today under the Kim Jong Un regime.

Lee Byeong-rim

Former Trafficking and Repatriation Victim and Mother

Born in 1957 in Kimhyungjik, Yanggang Province, Lee reached South Korea in 2010. She was in charge of a district food supply facility in her hometown. During the Arduous March, she was trafficked and sent to China. She experienced forcible repatriation to North Korea from China. Then, she lost everything during the currency reform in North Korea in December 2009 which made her realize that she could not trust the Kim regime. Her son was forcibly returned to North Korea from China and is now in a political prison camp. She learned about her son’s repatriation following her arrival in Thailand. As of now, she is not aware of her son’s whereabouts. She has decided to dedicate her life to liberate North Koreans from the Kim regime’s human rights atrocities. Lee Byeong-rim will testify about the dangers of forced repatriation, human rights abuses against women, political prison camps, and the importance of information inflow into the society.

Pak Shin-hyeok

Defected by Boat

Arriving in South Korea on June 2, 2008 by boat after a 28 hour boat ride, Pak traveled through a route near Baengnyeong Island. Born in Hinam-ri, Yeonan County, South Hwanghae Province, he lived in the coastal village of Bungye where loudspeakers to counter South Korean loudspeakers were installed on the hills toward his village and South Korea: Two loudspeakers were hung fifty meters apart along the barbed wire near his village. As a child, he once observed a drastic contrast between the two Koreas and had his first inkling about the idea of South Korea. In his youth, he witnessed both Koreas sending leaflets to the other side. Since his hometown was a coastal city, the North Korean regime’s jamming of South Korean radio broadcasts sometimes did not function as a result of frequent power outages. He was thus able to listen to South Korean broadcasts occasionally. During his military service and participation in foreign currency earning business, he frequently listened to South Korean radio broadcasts. Eventually, he was disillusioned enough with the three-generation hereditary dictatorship that he started to develop a desire to be in South Korea. Pak will explain the impact of leaflets, foreign radio broadcasts, and rice bottles on the people on North Korea. More than eighty years have passed since the Kim dynasty’s dictatorship. North Korea is still struggling with hunger because the leader has failed to solve even the most basic issue of providing food for the people. He believes that the people of North Korea live a life without any freedoms and are treated like animals.

North Korea Freedom Coalition Hosts and NKFC A Team

Suzanne Scholte and Kim Seong Min, NKFW Chairs

Johnny Park (USA), Kim Ji-Young and Jang Sei-ul, (ROK) NKFW Delegation Coordinators

Jason West, NKFC Vice Chair


Esther Kim

Euni Evensen

Jacqueline Pak

Kenji Sawai

Lisa Orme

Mariam and March Bell

Nancy Purcell

Oh Chang-hwa and Family

Pam Davidson

Richard Kim

Star Lee