CSPS-Korea Holds Annual Symposium on Human Security in the Gray Zone

Human Security in the Gray Zone: North Korean Defectors and Their Children

Mason Korea’s Center for Security Policy Studies-Korea (CSPS-K) held the 2021 CSPS-Korea Annual Symposium entitled “Human Security in the Gray Zone: North Korean Defectors and Their Children” last week.

Co-hosted by North Korean human rights organization, THINK, the symposium addressed the unprotected rights of children born by North Korean defectors in a third country, efforts by NGOs and international organizations, and further steps that need to be taken by the international community.

The symposium began with opening remarks by Campus Dean Dr. Robert Matz, Associate Dean of Admissions Ms. Kelley Chung, National Assemblyman Mr. Thae Yong-Ho, and Director of CSPS-Korea Dr. Soyoung Kwon. Over 140 participants joined the event both online and offline.


The first session of the symposium featured a documentary screening called Phantoms of the Border, depicting the lives of female North Korean defectors and their children born in a third country. In Session Two, Ms. Moonkyung Son (representative of THINK) moderated a panel discussion called “Mother’s Experience and Child’s Experience” featuring experts Dr. Seok Hyang Kim (Professor of North Korean Studies, Ewha Womans University), Ms. Okjung Han (Representative of Namirang Bukirang Volunteering Organization), Ms. Sarah Chun (Vice Principal of Nehemiah Korea Daum School), and Mr. Cheon Guk Lim (Tongilsomang Missionary).


In the final session, Dr. Kwon moderated a panel discussion on “human security for North Korean defectors” featuring expert panelists Dr. Joon Oh (former South Korean Ambassador to the UN and current chairperson of Save the Children Korea) and Mr. Imesh Pokharel (Representative and ad interim of UNOHCHR Korea).

“Due to economic difficulties, third country-born North Korean defectors are not recognized as nationals, so they are in the blind spot of national public services such as education and medical care,” said Dr. Kwon, adding that “national and social inclusion is urgently needed for these people." Dr. Kwon added that the purpose of the symposium was to explain the basic concepts of human rights and human security to third country-born North Korean youth to help them lead better lives and to awaken their potential as the next generation of global leaders.

“An international consensus must be formed regarding the human security crisis of North Korean women and their children,” said Dr. Matz. “They are struggling to lead a stable life due to emotional, linguistic, and cultural barriers. Mason Korea is expanding its educational inclusion for these people.”

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