Thor Halvorssen Smuggles a Taste of Freedom Into North Korea

According to The Weekly Standard, Thor Halvorssen is a human rights activist who’s . . . active. The organization he founded in 2005, the Human Rights Foundation, isn’t about writing white papers, spreading hashtags and sad Instagram photos or raising awareness.

It’s about doing.

Halvorssen takes precautions. He refuses to tell the reporter interviewing him where he lives. Although he doesn’t let threats against his life stop him, he takes them seriously. The government of Venezuela tortured his father, shot his mother and still holds his cousin in jail. He was beaten up in Vietnam. When North Korea threatens to assassinate him, it’s business as usual.

The Weekly Standard report went with him to the far north of South Korean, just below the border with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He, a group of North Korean dissidents and defectors, some HRF staffers and some Silicon Valley friends to provide technological support plan to launch balloons to fly contraband materials into North Korea. The Weekly Standard reporter and a few other journalists accompany the group.

They go by bus to a field outside of town, right below the demilitarized zone. The leader of the defectors is Park Sang-hak, head of the Fighters for a Free North Korea. Park used to write propaganda for the North Korean government. The group also includes Yeon-mi Park, a young woman who escaped into China and who has recently published a book about her story.

That night the group plans to distribute only anti-government leaflets into the north. People have sent such items as Bibles, cash, the works of Karl Marx (North Korea has replaced Marxism with its own version called juche), chocolate candy and pictures of Kim Jong-un’s wife from the porno movie she made. Sometimes they also send DVDs. They don’t have to be propaganda. One defector told the Weekly Standard that his eyes were opened by the ending of Titanic, seeing someone die for love instead of for the state.

They fill five balloons from hydrogen tanks, and send them into the sky.

Later, Halvorssen floats the idea of sending drones into North Korea, despite the immediate opposition of his staffers.

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