A North Korean defector’s quest for freedom at 2024 College Freedom Forum

On April 8, College Freedom Forum (CFF) brought together brave and inspiring activists at Stanford University to highlight some of the most pressing human rights issues facing the Asia-Pacific region.

Connecting university students with activist leaders around the world, CFF is a series of events organized by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) with an aim to promote democracy and human rights in authoritarian regimes. At CFF, not only do students hear about major global human rights issues firsthand from renowned activists; they become equipped with the unique insights and knowledge resources needed to tackle these issues and, in the process, gain valuable opportunities to broaden their educational endeavors far beyond the classroom and make connections for professional growth.

Amid rising authoritarianism worldwide, the region has been at its center in recent years in the shadow of the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly assertive authoritarian practices, democratic regression in Myanmar, crackdowns on free speech in Vietnam to Kim Jong-un’s totalitarianism in North Korea, among others.

One such activist invited to the event was Eunhee Park who defected from North Korea at the age of 21. At CFF ’24, Eunhee talked about her harrowing escape from the oppressive Kim regime in pursuit of freedom and highlighted the extreme measures taken by the North Korean regime to control its citizens, including harsh punishments for fashion choices the regime deems improper. Despite the risks and sacrifices, Park emphasized the value of living in a free society and explained why she would never take her freedom for granted. You can check out her story below:

Other speakers this time included Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration’s government-in-exile; Mai Khoi, Vietnamese pop star and political activist; Jewher Ilham, Uyghur advocate and daughter of imprisoned scholar IIham Tohti. These activists shared their personal stories and highlighted the struggles for democracy and human rights within their communities and what the international community can do to stand in solidarity with their causes.

  • This year, HRF brings its flagship Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) under the theme of “Re-claim Democracy” to Oslo, Norway, between June 3-5. For more information, you can check out https://oslofreedomforum.com/.
  • Follow event updates on Twitter @osloff and Instagram @osloff.

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