The Donia Human Rights Center, housed in the International Institute at the University of Michigan, presents the panel discussion “Human Rights in North Korea: Crimes Against Humanity, Advocacy for Change, and Future Prospects” on Wednesday, February 20 at 4:00pm. The event takes place in Annenberg Auditorium, 1120 Weill Hall, 735 S. State Street, Ann Arbor; a reception follows at 5:30pm. Both events are free and open to the public.

The panel will discuss the country’s human rights conditions in light of current negotiations for denuclearization between the United States and North Korea. The persecution of dissenting voices and systematic human rights violations by the Kim regime continue, as activists in South Korea and abroad advocate for reforms—which have largely been unheeded by leaders engaged in negotiations. What is happening in North Korea, and what types of activism have emerged to address human rights situations? How can concerned activists working toward improvement gain momentum?


Kang Cheol Hwan 
Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors, North Korea Strategy Center 
Kang Cheol Hwan is the chairman of the board of directors of North Korea Strategy Center U.S., Inc., and the founder of North Korea Strategy Center (NKSC) in Seoul, South Korea. Kang is a journalist, author, and North Korean defector. Born in 1968 in Pyongyang, North Korea, at the age of nine, he and his entire family were imprisoned in the Yodok concentration camp by the government of dictator Kim Il Sung after Kang’s grandfather was accused of treason. For ten years, Kang was subjected to the brutal conditions of the camp, where he and some members of his family endured starvation, torture, and the threat of execution. After he was released from the camp, Kang bought an illegal radio receiver to listen to broadcasts from South Korea. In 1992, he made the decision to defect and escaped North Korea by crossing the Yalu River into China, eventually immigrating to South Korea. In 2000, he published The Aquariums of Pyongyang, a description of his experiences and the very first survivor account of North Korea’s concentration camps. Kang is a staff writer for the South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo. In 2003, he was awarded the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Award and in 2006, he was selected as one of Time magazine’s Asian Heroes. After years of North Korean human rights activism, Kang concluded that expecting change from the North Korean government was not feasible. Without change and enlightenment of the North Korean people, without bridging the gap between the two Koreas, peaceful unification is not possible. Based on this belief, in 2007, Kang founded NKSC with the goals of disseminating uncensored information in North Korea, empowering North Korean defectors to become advocates of democracy, and raising awareness on North Korean human rights issues. 

Jared Genser 
Managing Director, Perseus Strategies 
Jared Genser is managing director of Perseus Strategies, a public interest law firm. Referred to by the New York Times as “The Extractor,” he is also the founder of Freedom Now, a non-governmental organization that works to free prisoners of conscience worldwide. Genser was previously a partner in the government affairs practice of DLA Piper LLP and a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. He has taught at Georgetown University Law Center, and the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania law schools. His pro bono clients have included former Czech Republic President Václav Havel and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Aung San Suu Kyi, Liu Xiaobo, Desmond Tutu, and Elie Wiesel. He holds a B.S. from Cornell University, an M.P.P. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was an Alumni Public Service Fellow, and a J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. Genser is author of The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Commentary and Guide to Practice (Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming 2019). In addition, he is co-editor of The UN Security Council in the Age of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and The Responsibility to Protect: The Promise of Stopping Mass Atrocities in Our Times (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is the recipient of the American Bar Association’s International Human Rights Award and the Liberty in North Korea’s Freedom Fighter Award.

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett 
President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice 
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett serves as president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, established in 2008 to continue the legacy of her father, the late Congressman Tom Lantos, who served as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress. Congressman Lantos was the founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and was widely acknowledged as one of our nation’s most eloquent and forceful leaders on behalf of human rights and justice. Under Lantos Swett’s leadership, the Lantos Foundation has rapidly become a distinguished and respected voice on key human rights concerns ranging from advancing rule of law globally and fighting for Internet freedom in closed societies, to combatting the persistent and growing threat of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Lantos Swett is the former chair and vice-chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and teaches Human Rights and American Foreign Policy at Tufts University. She currently serves as co-chair of the board of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) and the Budapest-based Tom Lantos Institute. Lantos Swett also serves on the Advisory Board of UN Watch; the annual Anne Frank Award and Lecture; The Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership, and Public Policy; and the Brigham Young University Law School. Lantos Swett earned a political science degree from Yale University at the age of 18, a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law; and a Ph.D. in history from The University of Southern Denmark.

Kiyoteru Tsutsui 
Professor, Sociology 
Director, Donia Human Rights Center 
Kiyoteru Tsutsui is professor in the Department of Sociology, Director of the Donia Human Rights Center, and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. His research on globalization of human rights and its impact on local politics has appeared in American Sociological ReviewAmerican Journal of SociologySocial ForcesSocial ProblemsJournal of Peace ResearchJournal of Conflict Resolution, and other social science journals. His book publications include Rights Make Might: Global Human Rights and Minority Social Movements in Japan (Oxford University Press 2018), and a co-edited volume (with Alwyn Lim) Corporate Social Responsibility in a Globalizing World (Cambridge University Press 2015). He has been a recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, National Science Foundation grants, the SSRC/CGP Abe Fellowship, Stanford Japan Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship, and other grants as well as awards from American Sociological Association sections on Global and Transnational Sociology (2010, 2013), Human Rights (2017), Asia and Asian America (2018), and Collective Behavior and Social Movements (2018).