Disrupt North Korea

HRF aids North Koreans by working with human rights groups based in South Korea to disrupt the Kim dictatorship's information monopoly.

  • HRF and Fighters for a Free North Korea launch balloons into North Korea.
    HRF and Fighters for a Free North Korea launch balloons into North Korea.
  • Park Sang Hak of Fighters for a Free North Korea prepares to launch balloons into North Korea.
    Park Sang Hak of Fighters for a Free North Korea prepares to launch balloons into North Korea.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) systematically tramples over the rights of its people and is widely accepted as the most totalitarian regime on the planet. The government does not allow for free and independent media, political opposition, religious freedom, or civil society. Punishment for defying the regime varies from sentences in some of the harshest prisons in the world to death. Kim Jong-Un succeeded his father Kim Jong-Il in December 2011, and continues to exacerbate the country’s dire human rights record.

A tightly policed embargo of all information coming into and out of North Korea has forced human rights groups to be creative in their methods of reaching out to North Korean citizens.

HRF’s Disrupt North Korea project aims to help civil society groups operating in South Korea to hack North Korea in three ways:

  • Balloon launches carrying information and equipment over the border. 
  • Radio broadcasting using short and medium-wave signals. 
  • Smuggling equipment and information through routes along the North Korean border with China.

HRF began its on-the-ground work in North Korea by partnering with defector and pro-democracy activist Park Sang Hak and his organization, Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), to launch weather balloons carrying information over the border in 2013. In January 2014, HRF and FFNK completed a successful balloon launch that carried transistor radios, USBs loaded with the complete Korean language Wikipedia, DVDs, and 500,000 pro-democracy leaflets over the border. The launch was covered widely by international media, and HRF described its new initiative in The Atlantic.

On August 2-3, HRF will host Hack North Korea, a gathering of Bay Area technologists, investors, engineers, designers, activists and North Korean defectors that aims to spark new ideas for getting information into the world's most closed and isolated society. The event is by invitation only and will take place in San Francisco. For registration, media, or sponsorship inquiries, please contact Alex Gladstein at alex@thehrf.org.

HRF continues to look for more ways to support technologies and initiatives that at disrupting the North Korean regime's informations monopoly.

The Disrupt North Korea project was co-founded by Silicon Valley angel investor Alexander Lloyd.