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Since 1998, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a quasi-private, grant-making organization funded almost entirely by the U.S. Congress via the U.S. State Department, has been, directly or indirectly through its four core institutes, supporting right-wing, neoconservative South Korean human rights and defector groups. In addition to technical assistance, this support has included $6.7 to $11.9 million from 1999 to 2010, with an additional $3 million starting January 2009 directly disbursed to many of these groups by the State Department under then newly elected Barack Obama. This article contends that NED's “human rights” work is part of a much larger strategy of destabilizing the North Korean government in line with U.S. interventionist aims against its foes. By funding international conferences and defector critiques of North Korea (including strategic testimony provided before Congress in the push for passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004), NED has fostered a North Korean human rights knowledge economy that has substantially shaped public images and opinion about North Korea in South Korea, the United States, and around the world. At the same time, NED's radio broadcasting, propaganda leaflet drops, and other incursionary media have sought to sow discord in North Korea.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2014-01-02

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