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December 23, 2014 3:38 pm

As Last Night of Chanukah Falls, Human Rights Group Urges American Jews to Aid North Korean Freedom Struggle

avatar by Ben Cohen

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have been incarcerated in concentration camps by Kim Jong Un's regime. Photo: Twitter

A leading human rights group has appealed to the Jewish community to turn its thoughts on this last night of Chanukah to the plight of the North Korean people living under the boot of Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship, and to assist in the task of breaking his regime’s absolute monopoly on the circulation of information.

“On the final day of Chanukah, a festival of freedom, it’s more important than ever to support those fighting for freedom and democracy in North Korea and around the world,” Alex Gladstein, Director of Institutional Affairs for the New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF,) told The Algemeiner.

HRF’s latest project is a bold initiative to break the information firewall which Kim Jong Un and his predecessors erected around North Korea, in order to insulate their totalitarian regime from outside influences. Entitled “Hack Them Back,” the campaign was triggered by the recent cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment – an act sanctioned, according to the FBI, by the North Korean leadership – that resulted in the cancellation of the American release of “The Interview,” a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen which mercilessly lampoons Kim Jong Un.

Following a massive public outcry, Sony announced today that “The Interview” will be released after all on Christmas Day. Nonetheless, the company’s initial decision to pull the movie sent a signal to the North Korean regime that the censorship it imposes on its own populace can be exported to the democratic west as well.

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The target of  HRF’s “Hack Them Back” campaign is not the North Korean regime’s own internet infrastructure, but its absolute control over the information which North Koreans can access.

“We created the ‘Hack Them Back’ campaign on the principle that freedom is essential to any society,” Gladstein said. Activists working with HRF will “smuggle and airdrop films, literature, encyclopedias, and other outside information,” into North Korea.

“We’re providing North Koreans with the tools and knowledge they need to choose for themselves what kind of world they want to live in,” Gladstein emphasized. “We’re hoping that the Jewish community will support this noble cause.”

‘Hack Them Back’ argues that the North Korean regime survives principally because it “brainwashes” its people and deprives them of basic human rights.

“The dictatorship exerts complete control over the country, using violence, concentration camps, and public executions to punish those who dare to disagree,” says the campaign’s website. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have been incarcerated under a system that operates on the principle of  “guilt-by-association (yeon-jwa-je,)” which means that extended family members of the accused – for up to three generations – are also punished.

Partnering with North Korean activists who have escaped Kim’s tyranny, HRF plans to use “hydrogen balloons to airlift material beyond the DMZ (demilitarized zone); land-based smuggling routes through the dictatorship of China; and radio transmissions and programming to reach those who own forbidden tunable short wave radios.” The group will also send USB sticks loaded with movies, books, articles and similar information into North Korea.

“These defector groups are inadequately funded, but passionately devoted to the cause of a free and democratic North Korea,” HRF says. “They believe that information and education are the keys to liberating their homeland. Our goal is to assist them with the technology, know-how, and funding they need to make a measurable difference in this all-important battle for the freedom of 25 million North Koreans.”

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