In This Review

North Korean Human Rights: Activists and Networks
North Korean Human Rights: Activists and Networks
By Andrew Yeo and Danielle Chubb
330 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2018

This book describes the international advocacy movement that has emerged over the past two decades to combat human rights violations in North Korea. The movement is made up of North Korean defectors joined by activists from not only South Korea but also Canada, Japan, the United States, and Europe. They pursue a range of goals, from humanitarian assistance to regime change, and use a variety of methods, from smuggling information to the North Korean population through broadcasts and thumb drives to lobbying the UN Human Rights Council. Seoul and Washington support the activists when they want to put pressure on Pyongyang—and regard them as an inconvenience when they want to negotiate. Despite the movement’s lack of coordination, it has had some successes. Human rights conditions in the North are now more widely known. In 2013, the un created a commission of inquiry on human rights in the country, which issued a devastating report on the abuses. Pyongyang has responded with diplomatic and propaganda pushback and some cosmetic legal changes. But as is often the case with human rights work, the real impact on conditions on the ground awaits a political breakthrough in the North.