Innovating Our Approach to Human Rights in North Korea

I had a the pleasure of organizing and moderating an event titled “Innovating our Approach to Human Rights in North Korea,” featuring an all North Korean-escapee panel. This event was co-sponsored by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

It’s time to re-define this problem statement, re-define the experts, and re-define the solutions on this seemingly intractable problem of human rights in North Korea. Watch this talk, and listen to these incredibly accomplished, fiercely intelligent panelists. I’m also copy/pasting the event details below so you could check out each of the panelists’ bios.


Due to global awareness campaigns around the North Korean regime’s crimes against humanity against its people, the world now knows of just how much North Korean people suffer at the hands of their totalitarian regime. Given that there is a baseline of public knowledge regarding the deplorable human rights conditions in the country, it is now time to invest in and prepare for a North Korea where North Koreans can finally author their own future. This event will lay out a few options for how civil society actors can impactfully invest in the collective vision of a free North Korea by empowering North Korean people. This event featured all North Korean-born panelists. 

Moderator: Dr. Jieun Baek Fellow, Belfer Center 


  • Dae-Hyeon Park | Founder and CEO of Woorion
  • Hyun-Seung Lee | Former Deputy General Manager, Korea Miyang Shipping Corporation
  • Seo-Hyun Lee | Graduate Student
  • Seong-Min Lee | Human Rights Advocate
  • Sung-Ju Lee | Author; PhD Candidate 
  • Timothy Cho | Inquiry Clerk to the APPG on North Korea; UK Conservative Party Candidate
  • Yeon-Mi Park | Human Rights Advocate; Author

Dae-Hyeon Park is originally from South Hwanghae in North Korea, Park Dae-hyeon is a founder and CEO of Woorion, an NGO and social network that connects North Korean refugees living in South Korea to educational opportunities, scholarships, job openings, housing, social services and support, and other important information about resettlement and life in South Korea. He lived in England for much of his teens and speaks excellent English. He is also a student in the school of business and management at Kookmin University in Seoul. Park Dae-hyeon is passionate about helping North Korean refugees and plans to start a microfinance initiative to help would-be North Korean business people.

Hyun-Seung Lee is a former Deputy General Manager of the Korea Miyang Shipping Corporation (business entity of the DPRK regime), who graduated from China Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, where he was the chairman of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, Dalian China branch. After completing his military service in 2005 with the rank of Sergeant, he was granted membership in the Korean Workers Party. Despite his prestigious background and elite-level education, a series of brutal purges by Kim Jong Un forced him and his entire family to defect in late 2014, making their way first to South Korea. Subsequently the entire family emigrated to the United States (2016) where Hyun-Seung has been engaged with several Washington DC think tanks and NGOs in consulting roles.

Dr. Jieun Baek is a Fellow with the Korea Project and the Applied History Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center where she focuses on North Korea policy. She is the author of North Korea’s Hidden Revolution: How the Information Underground is Transforming a Closed Society, and is the founder and co-director of Lumen, a non-profit organization that works to make information available to all North Koreans. Prior to receiving her doctorate in Public Policy at the University of Oxford, she was a Research Fellow at theBelfer Center, and worked at Google headquarters for several years where, among other roles, she served as Google Ideas’ North Korea expert. Baek received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard.  She is a proud Los Angeles native. Visit her

Seo-Hyun Lee was born and raised in central Pyongyang, North Korea. She went to China to study when she was a sophomore at Kim Il Sung University and earned her bachelor’s degree of Science in Finance from Dongbei University of Economics and Finance in 2014. She defected from North Korea in October 2014 during a heightened period of brutal purges by the Kim Jong Un regime. With her long-term vision to build a liberal democratic system and bring freedom in North Korea, she pursues further graduate studies. 

Seong-Min Lee was born and raised in a North Korean border city, Hyesan, he conducted extensive cross-border business between North Korea and China and also worked with the Ryanggang Province Ministry of People’s Security, where he primarily focused on inter-provincial trading matters designed to generate funds. He received his bachelor’s in political science from Columbia University and master’s in International Security Policy (ISP) and Management from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He has participated in and advised various organizations’ projects and panels involving North Korea.

Sung-Ju Lee is the author of Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea. He is currently doing a doctoral program, on Fulbright Scholarship, in peace and conflict resolution at Carter School, George Mason University. He has a BA in political science and journalism from Sogang University; MA, on Chevening Scholarship, in international relations from University of Warwick.

Timothy Cho was born in North Korea, escaped twice, and imprisoned four times during his journey to find a democratic life. Since coming to the UK, he has achieved a BA degree in International Relations & Politics at the University of Salford and an MA degree in International Relations & Security at the University of Liverpool. After completing the degrees, he was an aide to a Member of the UK Parliament in 2018-19. From 2013 until today, he has been a public speaker for churches, governments, organisations, and universities across the UK and Europe – including addressing and taking part in the meetings at Westminster of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on North Korea. He is currently an Inquiry Clerk to the APPG on North Korea, and a UK Conservative Party Candidate for English local elections in May 2021.