Good afternoon. Thank you, Ambassador Turner, for the kind introduction.

2024 marks 10 years since the landmark UN Commission of Inquiry report exposed to the world the egregious record of human rights violations and abuses committed by the DPRK regime and found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed and are ongoing.

In the intervening decade, the human rights situation in the DPRK has only gotten worse. It is important to keep the world’s attention focused on this issue, and it is reassuring to see such a diverse and wide audience here today.

We are joined by activists who have been advancing DPRK human rights issues for decades, as well as students who will carry this effort forward until we someday see a North Korea where human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected.

We’re also joined by members of the diplomatic corps, including Republic of Korea Deputy Chief of Mission Kim. We’re pleased to welcome representatives from embassies from a range of regions here. Today North Koreans will hear the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia broadcasts about today’s event and will know that governments around the world are concerned for their welfare.

I am also pleased to see here tonight those of you who are engaging with DPRK human rights issues for the first time. The human rights situation in the DPRK remains one of the most protracted human rights crises in modern times.

The DPRK maintains total control of its people, their movements, and even seeks to control their thoughts. Gathering in a room – as we are here today – to watch a movie is a crime punishable by death in the DPRK. Not only would each of you be subject to potential execution for joining such a gathering, but up to three generations of your family could be sent to prison camps for your alleged “crime.”

There are credible reports that North Korean children, elderly, and pregnant women are subjected to harsh conditions, deprived of food, tortured, and forced to labor on behalf of the regime.

That very same regime continues to invest in its unlawful weapons of mass destruction program. In just the first few weeks of the year, that very same regime has escalated its rhetoric, increasing tensions and testing stability in the region. That very same regime is launching satellites and testing ballistic missiles instead of investing in the welfare of its people.

North Koreans working overseas do not fare much better. They have to surrender most of their salaries to the DPRK regime, and work under difficult conditions, with workdays of up to 18 hours.

You will see through today’s film the dystopian level of control the regime exerts. Children are taught from birth to believe in the divinity of the Kim family and to fear the United States. We cannot sit by and do nothing. We must act to improve the lives of North Koreans – because they deserve better.

We are honored to be hosting a number of courageous North Korean refugees this evening, including Mr. Lee, Deborah, and others. Mr. Kim Doohyun will join our Q&A session.

Mr. Kim, like so many others, once believed in the “utopia” the regime forces upon its people.

Mr. Kim, like the Roh family in the film, eventually realized that prosperity and a brighter future for himself and his family were only possible with a government that is accountable to and serves its people.

We continue to call upon Kim Jong Un and the DPRK regime to respect the human rights of North Koreans. To allow North Koreans freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of religion and belief. We call upon the DPRK to come to the negotiating table – and we are prepared to open a conversation on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We note the DPRK government’s White Paper on Human Rights released last month. We are ready to talk about our own human rights record, but also want to be clear that prison camps, where children and the elderly are forced to work, public executions for watching KPop videos or using South Korean slang like “oppa,” and the forced abortion of babies of mixed nationality are unacceptable – and the international community will not stay silent about these abuses.

We will continue to raise awareness of these issues and press for accountability for those responsible.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to brave the snow and join us – to learn about the extreme hardship the people of North Korea face and the tremendous difficulties they must overcome to find freedom.

I hope this event and this film will serve as a call to action to our guests today and to the international community.

Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future