Gimme More: Before you write an article like this (“Why 30 North Korean Defectors Were in San Francisco,” Kathleen Richards, 8/3/16), supporting the position of a woman who has routinely defended the atrocities of the most brutal regime on the face of the planet (because they pay her), I would speak to the hundreds of defectors that have suffered unspeakably at the hands of the Kim regime. Giving Christine Ahn this kind of coverage does a disservice to these people who risked everything to escape a country that operates like an open air prison. Regarding Human Rights Supporting the 2002 military coup of Hugo Chavez, HRF was not even an organization at that time, and for the record, if Ms. Ahn believes that supporting a military coup against Venezuela was a bad thing, I would challenge her to go visit Venezuela today and see the wonderful way that Chavez’s ideals have worked in destroying that country. Jim Warnock
Unhappy Camper: Your article claims that Human Rights Foundation supported a military coup d’etat against Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. HRF was founded in 2005 and began operations in 2006. How could we have supported the 2002 coup against Chávez? Beyond the chronological impossibility of this happening, your writer failed to do even the most basic fact-checking. HRF has a decade-long track record of opposing the erosion of democracy and the use of force to interfere in democracy, everywhere from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe (and this includes the dictatorship of Venezuela). HRF is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies — and we are equally critical of dictatorships whether they are right-wing like the ones in Singapore and Saudi Arabia or left-wing like those in Kazakhstan or North Korea.
With regard to Christine Ahn: Richards chooses to describe her as a “peace activist who has been arguing for a more contextualized view of North Korea.” In reality, Ms. Ahn is a public advocate for the North Korean dictatorship. She encourages business engagement with the Kim family regime, petitions for the end of sanctions, and speaks highly of the regime’s “achievements.” All the while Ms. Ahn refuses to criticize or blame the dictatorship for the horrible suffering that the North Korean people have been living through for seven decades. Ahn even created a website to promote her WomenCrossDMZ initiative that provides a historical account of the Korean War — yet it completely avoids the fact that North Korea started the Korean war by attempting to invade South Korea. In fact, you won’t find the names of the family of dictators: Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, or Kim Jong-un mentioned even once on this website. Ahn is incapable of even admitting that North Korea is a dictatorship. Her outrageous defense and whitewashing of one of the world’s most murderous regimes is laid out in detail in two articles that HRF published in Foreign Policy in April and July of last year.
Richards writes that the U.S. government has been supporting North Korean refugees and teaching them how to criticize the North Korean regime — as if that was a bad thing. The reality is that North Korean defectors and refugees need international support and solidarity. They are incredibly brave people, with very few resources, who came a long way to San Francisco to testify about their horrific experiences. And in return, SF Weekly chose to publish an extremely ill-informed article criticizing them, casting skepticism on their stories, and giving positive publicity to a propagandist of the Kim regime. For shame. Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation