A group of undergraduates is planning to use love tragedies and interstellar swashbuckling in the fight for human rights.
The student organization Yale for North Korean Human Rights is partnering with the North Korea Strategy Center, a Seoul-based non-governmental organization that promotes democracy and human rights in North Korea, to smuggle movie-filled USB drives to North Korean citizens. The group is planning to gather on Cross Campus after Thanksgiving Break to encourage student participation in the project by having passersby photographed while holding signs that read, “If I could show a movie to a North Korean citizen, I would show ____.”
YNKHR president Steven Kang ’16 said that such events go beyond traditional forms of raising awareness, such as inviting guest speakers.
“There’s got to be some kind of activist focus, where the people in our group can feel like they’re actually making an impact,” Kang said.
One movie-filled USB will be sent to North Korea for every ten student photos taken. Kang explained that USB drives are ideal for smuggling because they are small and easy to conceal. NKSC, which is run by North Korean defectors, smuggled over 2,000 USB drives and over 10,000 movies into North Korea in 2013.
The group also plans to make a short video that will be delivered along with the USB drives. The group will hold a meeting tonight in which attendees will contribute suggestions and ideas for the video’s content.
In addition, Joseph Kim, an NKSC representative, will discuss topics ranging from the emergence of the North Korean black market to defectors’ accounts of life in North Korea. Kang noted that the group devotes a large amount of attention to issues that are not frequently publicized. He said that while mainstream media has tended to focus more on topics such as North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, the lives of average North Korean citizens are also worth examining.
YNKHR Vice President Paul Lee ’17 added that the organization brings in a range of speakers and projects in order to address different aspects of North Korea, such as political and diplomatic issues.
YNKHR treasurer Claire Kim ’18 explained that watching Western films can expose North Korean citizens to worlds vastly different from their own. She pointed to the experience of North Korean defector Yeonmi Park, who described watching “Titanic” as a turning point in her life at the 2014 Oslo Freedom Forum.
Claire Kim said she believes that the influence of Western culture has introduced a generational gap in North Korea, with “one [generation] that still remains faithful to the regime, but [another] that knows of the existence of a world beyond theirs and is driven by a natural curiosity to experience it.”
Min Kwon ’18 praised the group’s efforts to inform students of the severity of the situation in North Korea.
“Any project or event, successful or not, is a contributing factor [to] increasing knowledge about North Korea and allowing students to be more cognizant,” Kwon said.
The North Korea Strategy Center was founded in 2007.