Event: Inside North Korea's Gulags

North Korea is not only one of the world's most problematic nuclear weapons hotspots, it's also one of the world's most isolated states.It's hard to understand what life must be like for people living in the hermit kingdom, and even more difficult to know what's happening in the nation's extensive gulag prison system. 

To get a glimpse into the world of the gulags, on Tuesday, September 17, the Asia Society of Northern California will be hosting a discussion between Sunghee Jo, an outspoken defector that has been residing in the US since 2008; Sandra Fahy, North Korea expert at Sophia University in Toyko; and Blaine Harden, author of Escape from Camp 14 and former Washington Post correspondent. The event will be moderated by Philip Yun, executive director and chief operating officer of Ploughshares Fund.

This discussion will be based on the premise of what day to day life is like under King Jong-Un’s rule for North Korean citizens; from school and family life to human rights. While Sunghee Jo will describe the interior and humanitarian aspect, Philip Yun provides thoughtful and analytical opinions on the political side of North Korea.

Philip sat down with Ploughshares Fund in June to clarify what exactly is going on in North Korea:

“After thumbing their noses at the international community and risking an escalation in violence, North Korea is once again trying to make nice. They’ve reached out to China and Japan, and are trying to restart talks with the United States. And, after an unprecedented shutdown this spring, North Korea has engaged in talks to reopen the Kaesong industrial zone to restart economic cooperation with South Korea. All of this is part of their predictable efforts to see how many benefits North Korea can extract from the international community. But the internal military need to keep testing their nuclear weapons hasn’t disappeared. While things seem to be going well right now, if North Korea doesn’t get what it wants, it will test again.”

With more of an understanding on the political side, Blaine, Sunghee and Sandra will take us inside the country to see how the people are faring. Kim Jong-Un is out to make a name for himself among the international community and that style of leadership will be directly correlated to his people.

As our eyes may be elsewhere on the world stage right now, it is important that North Korea always be in our sight.

To learn more or buy tickets, visit the World Affairs Council website.

Photo by EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection