History of NKnet
The Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKnet), was founded in Seoul in 1999 and formally registered as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization in February 2000. It was formed by a group of citizens who wish to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people and to realize universal values by promoting human rights and democracy in North Korea.
The founders of NKnet are all veterans of the pro-democracy campaign against South Korea’s pre-1988 military dictatorship. While taking pride in their achievements during the struggle to establish democratic institutions in South Korea, they have publicly renounced their support at that time for North Korean socialism and its Juche ideology. After the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe and the food crisis in North Korea, they reassessed their view of North Korea and socialist ideology and concluded that socialism is not a viable alternative and that the North Korean regime’s method of governing was a complete failure, both economically and politically. NKnet, therefore, strongly supports individual human rights, democracy, and the free market system, one of “the best modern achievements of mankind.”
With that in mind, NKnet carries out various activities in and outside of South Korea. For example, in 2005, NKnet co-organized the International Conference on North Korean Human Rights with Freedom House in Seoul, which raised awareness of North Korean human rights issue in Korean society. Since then, NKnet has organized international conferences on related issues, including North Korean orphans in China, succession, and the democratization of North Korea. Also, NKnet has organized forums and seminars on topics such as strategies to democratize North Korea, the South Korean government’s policies, the monitoring of international food aid to North Korea, etc.
NKnet published a quarterly magazine, Keys, from 2000 to 2005. Keys became the foundation of the Daily NK, which was launched in late 2004. Also, NKnet distributed an email newsletter “NK In & Out” to provide inside information to experts around the world. NKnet now publishes NK Vision, a monthly magazine of North Korean news for scholars, reporters and other North Korean watchers. NKnet’s work has been quoted by various Korean and international news media such as the Chosun Ilbo, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and others.
NKnet’s contribution to raising awareness of North Korean human rights issue was recognized by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on December 10, 2009, by being granted the National Human Rights Award. Also, on December 10, 2012, Kim Young Hwan, NKnet’s head researcher and one of the group’s key founders, received the Order of Civil Merit from the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.