Thor Dropping His Human Rights Hammer on North Korea
“Hack Them Back!” That was the slogan Thor Halvorssen had emblazoned on his T-shirt. But the President of the Human Rights Foundation, or HRF, does more than just wear t-shirts and yell his complaints with righteous rage. He actively helps those groups looking to cause trouble for the latest regime to enter his sights . . . the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a.k.a. North Korea.
The “Hack Them Back” shirt is in response to Kim Jung-Un’s government hacking into the Sony computer system in retaliation for the Seth Rogen movie The Interview, the plot of which revolves around an assassination attempt of Kim. Even before the North Korean hack, Halvorssen had been helping dissident hacking groups in the country for years, smuggling in USBs or assisting defector groups in hack-a-thons. In addition, HRF activists have launched balloons into North Korea carrying cash, movies, and anti-regime leaflets. Halvorssen’s goal is to raise a million dollars for defector groups to aid in their efforts to oppose the Kim regime.
The North Korean government is apparently taking Halvorssen’s activities seriously. When the HRF president visited Seoul, South Korea, he was informed that agents from the North were spying on his hotel. This prompted the South government to assign security to the hotel. In addition, several defectors Halvorssen knows or works with are on a hit list put together by Kim’s security apparatus.
So why has North Korea earned Halvorssen’s attention? The country has been under the authoritarian rule of the Kim family for more than 70 years. An estimated 200,000 people languish in labor camps. The citizenry is forced to regard Kim as a deity. DPRK agents have kidnapped foreigners. More than three million people were starved to death in a government-induced famine during the 1990s.
Thor Halvorssen is a Venezuelan who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum and served as the CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Along with giving lectures around the world, he is also a film producer.
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