[General]Happy New Year from NKDB's Chairman

3 Jan 2024
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As we bid farewell to 2023, a year brimming with both gratification and remorse, we eagerly embrace the promising horizon of 2024.

We extend our warmest New Year's greetings to all members of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) who persistently labor amidst adversities, and to our unwavering domestic and international supporters.

Reflecting on the bygone year of 2023, as we transitioned from the bustling streets of Chungmuro to a new operational stage in central Gwanghwamun, we find ourselves immersed in a whirlwind of emotions.

2023 marked a monumental milestone—NKDB's 20th anniversary. This auspicious occasion prompted us to evaluate our achievements thus far and reaffirm our commitment for the next 10 and 20 years. These accomplishments culminated in the recognition of our special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), opening doors to novel international endeavors.

At the heart of NKDB's endeavors lies the documentation of human rights violations. Despite our unwavering efforts in this crucial task, the publication of our annual "North Korean Human Rights White Paper" and the "North Korean Religious Freedom White Paper" has been pending since 2020. In the upcoming year of 2024, our focus will be directed towards resuming the publication of these essential white papers.

However, amidst challenges, there were significant triumphs in the past year. NKDB succeeded in establishing a platform to share the stories and cases meticulously documented over the past two decades. While modest in scale, the inauguration of the North Korean Human Rights Museum's exhibition hall brings us immense joy. Our ultimate goal remains the creation of a permanent North Korean Human Rights Museum—a sanctuary dedicated to preserving the voices often forgotten. I extend profound gratitude to the Establishment of the North Korean Human Rights Museum Steering Committee (Chairman: Lee Jai-chun, former chairman of NKDB) for their unwavering dedication. I also extend heartfelt appreciation to everyone who contributed to the success of the opening.

Throughout 2023, NKDB remained steadfast in providing redress to victims and exploring avenues for accountability. In this pursuit, we released a new report titled 'Behind Closed Doors' and organized a conference for its unveiling.

Despite our collective efforts, the resumption of forced repatriation of North Koreans to China in October, following the reopening of North Korea's borders, was a devastating setback. NKDB stood united with our colleagues in raising awareness about the ongoing issue of forced repatriation of North Korean refugees detained in China, calling upon the international community for urgent intervention.

Our commitment to conducting annual surveys on the economic and social integration of North Korean escapees and gauging perceptions of North Korean human rights remained unwavering in 2023. We continued offering resettlement assistance services for returned POWs, abductees, victims of human rights violations, and vulnerable North Korean escapees. Additionally, NKDB's Education Center for Korean Integration hosted educational programs, including the inaugural 'Law for North Korean Escapees' Academy.

Last year, the NKDB Human Rights Scholarship Foundation expanded its reach, thanks to the efforts of President Lee Jae-hwa and the generous donors contributing scholarships. Gratitude is also extended to Ambassador Philippe Lefort, the former French Ambassador to South Korea, for unwavering support for young North Koreans through the scholarship program.

Continuing its noble cause, the NKDB Center for Human Rights Legal Support provided free legal aid to victims of human rights violations. I commend Director Yoon Seung-hyun, the review committee, and our dedicated staff for their tireless commitment. The West Gyeonggi Hana Center, supporting the resettlement of North Korean escapees, provided solace and a safe haven despite adversities.

Throughout 2023, NKDB's board members sponsored a monthly lunch for staff, fostering camaraderie and uplifting morale among team members.

As we stride into 2024, NKDB stands prepared for the forthcoming 10- and 20-year periods, ready to make significant strides. I admire the unwavering passion, dedication, and sense of mission exhibited by our researchers, even amidst challenging work conditions. I hope they take pride in their invaluable contribution to recording history and uncovering truths.

The tai-se (太歲) of 2024 is Gapjinnyeon (甲辰年), the year of the green dragon. I am optimistic that all NKDB members will experience a fulfilling year, inspired by the vibrant spirit and vigor symbolized by the green dragon.

In closing, I offer heartfelt prayers for the health and tranquility of all those standing by our side.

Happy New Year

Young-ho SHIN,

Chairman of the Board

Database Center for North Korean Human Rights