Yu Sae Hee (류세희)
Chairman of NKnet, Dr. Yu Sae Hee, is a champion of the democracy movements for both South and North Korea.
When he was a political science student at Seoul National University, South Korea’s first president, Dr. Syngman Rhee, was ruling the country in a dictatorial manner: arbitrarily changing the constitution, arresting and executing political rivals, and attempting to run for president for a fourth term in 1960. Yu Sae Hee was one of the leaders of the students to fight against the rigged election. Culminating on April 19 of that year, the demonstration finally forced President Rhee to resign and democracy was restored.
After the April 19 Revolution, Yu went to the United States, completing a doctoral degree in political science at Columbia University. He came back to South Korea and taught politics of communist countries at Hanyang University in Seoul.
Dr. Yu served as the president of the Korea Political Science Association from 1995 to 1996 and Vice President of Hanyang University from 2002 to 2004.
Han Ki Hong (한기홍)
The president and one of the founders of NKnet, Mr. Han Ki Hong, was involved in the student and labor movements in the 1980s and early 1990s, but came to support liberal democracy and the market economy, and has worked in the North Korean human rights movement since the late 1990s.
Mr. Han entered Yonsei University in 1980 at a time when South Korea’s student movement was experiencing a dramatic shift away from advocating for liberal democracy and toward communist ideology. Han became a leader of the Yonsei University student movement, and was imprisoned by the military dictatorship led by President Chun Doo Hwan.
After leaving the university, Mr. Han got involved in the labor movement, serving as a union leader of workers in the Seoul metropolitan subway system.
However, in the mid-1990s, the wave of North Korean defectors arriving in South Korea and their subsequent testimonies led Han to change his views on North Korea. Han, together with a group of former student movement leaders who had converted from supporting pro-North Korean socialism to liberal democracy, market economy and North Korean human rights, created the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKnet).
Articles and presentations by Mr. Han that appear on this site are listed here.
Kim Young Hwan (김영환)
Mr. Kim Young Hwan is the head researcher at NKnet and one of the group’s founders. Mr. Kim is known for being the person to introduce the Juche ideology to South Korea and indoctrinate the majority of the South Korean student movement with the ideology.
Entering the Seoul National University’s School of Law in 1982, Mr. Kim soon participated in the student movement and became wanted by police in 1985. In 1986, writing under the pseudonym Steel, he circulated a series of letters called “Kangchol Seoshin” (literally, “Letters by Steel”). In the letters, Mr. Kim argued for the Juche ideology. The letter was spread in college campuses and labor unions and soon turned the movement toward Juche ideology and pro-North Korean communism.
Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, he led the pro-North Korean student movement and became a member of the (North) Korean Workers’ Party in 1989. In 1991, as the founder of the South Korean Juche movement, he secretly visited Pyongyang on a North Korean submersible and met Kim Il Sung.
Within a few years Mr. Kim came to realize the fallacy of the Juche ideology, owing much to his experiences in Pyongyang. For instance, he had been shocked to find that North Korean scholars could not freely discuss the Juche ideology, as if they feared punishment. He eventually changed his views 180 degrees to support the North Korean democracy movement.
Now Mr. Kim is involved in groups that promote a market economy, liberalization in South Korea and democratization and human rights in North Korea.
Mr. Kim and three other activists were detained in China from March 29 to July 20, 2012. A selection of media reports can be found here.
More about Mr. Kim, Juche, and his past can be found in this Daily NK article.