As the world focuses its attention on the horrors of Kim Jong Il's rule, the Human Rights Foundation uploads three important talks given at the Oslo Freedom Forum to take you behind the regime's repressive curtain.
Hear from two of the world's most prominent North Korean dissidents and one of the world's most prominent North Korea experts:
Park Sang-hak, 2009 Oslo Freedom Forum
Defector and activist; chairman of Fighters for a Free North Korea
"In this country, one can die from uttering one wrong word; people starve to death; one cannot go anywhere without a public pass. In this country, there are modern-day Auschwitz concentration camps; no religion exists; the regime supports production of illegal drugs, counterfeit bills and cigarettes. In this country, the whole population is classified into twelve hierarchical groups; millions starve to death while the dictator spends close to a billion dollars for his father's memorial; there is neither radio nor internet. In this country, one has to serve at least ten years in the military; there is the biggest income gap in the world; and the monthly wage is less than a dollar for most people. This country is North Korea."
Kang Chol-hwan, 2010 Oslo Freedom Forum
Prison camp survivor; author, The Aquariums of Pyongyang
"North Korea is like one large prison. Public executions and concentration camps are commonly accepted in general North Korean society. Within these camps, not only political criminals are captured, but their family members from around the land are also rounded up and killed... Unlike in the African deserts, North Korea is the only starving country with perfectly good natural resources... Kim Jong-il spent $809 million to create a mausoleum for his father. Just $300 million can feed North Korean people for one year."
Barbara Demick, 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum
Author, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
"In North Korea, there are no dissidents...there is no internet...there are no elections; there are no opposition leaders... [The regime] has taught the North Korean people that they have nothing to envy in the world- that they live in the greatest country and in order to maintain this lie, they have to keep absolutely all outside information out of the country. So you have a system where the radios are fixed to a single station, where the television is fixed to a single station. You can't see any kind of foreign media. The Bible is banned - for a very interesting reason - because they have ripped off a lot of the language of the New Testament: Kim Il-sung is God, Kim Jong-il is the son of God... North Korea remains, I believe, the worst country in the world to live."
Picking up where nuclear talks left off may be the best way to promote stability on the Korean peninsula in this time of transition. There is no guarantee that it will work, but it is by far the best option available.
Last June we met with North Korea's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was perhaps among the last substantial, non-classified contact between Westerners and high-level North Korean officials of the regime of Kim Jong Il. We were surprised by what transpired.