By Aidan Jonah – May 24, 2022
An analysis of Canadian government grants shows it has given a combined $18.3 million CAD to organizations (in 2018 and 2021) which work to improve and ensure the efficiency of the brutal sanctions regime imposed on the DPRK/“North Korea”. Canada also participates in international military operations which attempt to enforce this sanctions regime. The almost unquestioning support for Canada’s actions towards the DPRK may raise confusion for some.
This support begins to become understandable when it’s understood that, as The Canada Files can reveal, the Canadian government has been closely supporting anti-communist anti-DPRK organization HanVoice since its founding in 2007. HanVoice has gone on to receive funding from the National Endowment for Democracy on at least three occasions and work closely with NED backed organizations many more times. Unsurprisingly, HanVoice has become the most prominent Canadian voice on events within and in-relation to the DPRK, while working to propagandize Canadian youth against the DPRK.
Yet they were not a household name to the Canadian public until November 2021, when its eight-year long effort to allow Canadians to privately sponsor refugees from the DPRK was backed by the Trudeau government.
This group is far from a humanitarian organization that truly cares for DPRK citizens. Rather, it’s Canada’s very own anti-DPRK lobby group, which plays a key role in maintaining the demonization of the DPRK necessary to justify the continued imposition of severe sanctions on it.
How did HanVoice do in its early years?
HanVoice’s April 2007 launch event was endorsed by the Canadian government, a webarchived version of the HanVoice Wikipedia page reveals. This page was advertised openly by HanVoice in 2009: “HanVoice has joined Wikipedia! Check out the HanVoice entry at HanVoice Wiki Page.” Note: Final linked version goes to 2014 version, though webarchive link is from 2009.”
The Wikipedia page states that:
“HanVoice formally launched itself at the Innis Town Hall at the University of Toronto with a screening of the documentary Seoul Train. Over 200 people attended this formative event. The Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, Jason Kenney, was a special guest in attendance to speak on behalf of the Canadian government.”
Note: Supporting the validity of this webarchived page is that Wikipedia editors said it: “reads like an advertisement.” It’s almost certain that HanVoice put this Wikipedia entry up themselves, or had someone who was on good terms with HanVoice put it up on their behalf.
HanVoice’s site, in 2008, falsely described the situation of the DPRK since 1994 in this manner: “Imagine that within ten years, the entire population of the city of Toronto, is dead. Killed in a famine exasperated by government mismanagement.”
From the very beginning HanVoice has been opposed to the socialist government of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, painting it as a “hermit kingdom” and a nation where all are poor and “elites” dictate the running of the country. It’s little wonder they gained access to the halls of power so soon.
What has Canada previously done to the DPRK?
Canada’s historical actions towards the DPRK provide insight into why’d they assist HanVoice. After the end of WW2, the USSR controlled region (“North Korea) of Korea’s governance was fully handed over to the popular force, the communists.
Meanwhile, the US controlled region (“South Korea”) of Korea had a US puppet government enforced by US troops, Japanese army troops who’d been stationed in occupied Korea, and US-trained South Korean military troops, many of whom had served in the occupying Japanese army during its occupation of Korea. South Korea then had businessman Syngman Rhee imposed as leader through fraudulent elections in 1948. Massacres totalling hundreds of thousands and brutal repression of the entire citizenry in “South Korea” were an ever present in the following two years, and would continue until 1954.
In 1950, the U.N. occupation forces entered Pyongyang. 26000 troops from Canada were part of the Western led invasion of the DPRK, in an attempt to kill off socialism in Korea, and then destroy the socialist revolution in China if they succeeded in crushing the DPRK. In the end, this Western invasion failed in its aim to take control of Korea, with the nation split into two parts at the 38th parallel. Active military conflict ended in 1953, but the US occupation force has never left “South Korea”, while the last Canadian troops left Korea in 1957. The goal of the west was simple, to crush the DPRK and then China, and it has never changed.
HanVoice starts engaging with the NED and NED-funded groups
Moving back to this century, HanVoice gained further attention after they hosted the “10th International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees” in August 2010, with funding to put on this conference coming from the National Endowment for Democracy. The Canadian state continued to indicate its support for HanVoice, as Canadian senator Yonah Martin and Canadian MPs attended the conference’s policy roundtable on its final day.
In October 2010 HanVoice claimed that in the DPRK:
“Hundreds of thousands remain in prison camps that remain a macabre combination of the gulags of the former Soviet Union and Auschwitz. Torture is rampant; executions still public. Political and economic freedoms are non-existent as the secret police keep watch over all. We cannot sit back and do nothing and ask ourselves in the future why we stood idle.”
HanVoice along with other anti-DPRK NED-funded organizations accuse the DPRK of having 200,000 people in prison camps. Evidence of this claim is mainly based on satellite imagery, but no proof is given to suggest that any given facility is actually a prison. Additionally, many of these claims come from Radio Free Asia, a US-government funded propaganda outlet that uses “anonymous sources” and South Korean intelligence in order to launder rumors, hearsay and lies as fact.
The DPRK regularly gives amnesty to all people imprisoned in the country. This happened as recently as January 2022, as well as August 2020, where all prisoners were released on amnesty and all formerly incarcerated people are being reintegrated to society.
To understand the socialist politics of the DPRK, give this booklet from the Paektu Solidarity Alliance, and this compilation of literature on the DPRK’s Juche idea, a read.
HanVoice’s goal of creating a program for DPRK refugees to be privately sponsored to come to Canada, announced in 2013, resulted in a further show of the Canadian state’s open support for HanVoice. In October 2014, HanVoice confirmed they were closely working with Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney, the same minister who spoke at HanVoice’s 2007 launch event, to create this private sponsorship program. This effort seemingly stalled when the Liberals won the 2015 federal election, and became Canada’s governing party.
In May 2015, HanVoice and the North Korea Strategy Center launched “Project E”, a campaign to “educate, enlighten, empower and spark an epiphany” within DPRK citizens by “exposing” them to “objective information” contained in USB keys. HanVoice’s special Project E site notes that: “All funds contributed to Project E will be donated to NKSC which will leverage its existing operations to obtain USB keys, upload objective information (including Wikipedia, documentaries, and movies), and use its discreet distribution channels to disseminate the USB keys within North Korea.”
The goal of this project is clear, to propagandize citizens of the DPRK with “objective information” (ie. western propaganda and western cinema) dropped into the country through USB keys, to spread desire for so-called “Western freedom” and lead to regime change against the socialist DPRK government.
With the goal of this project being eventual regime change, who supports the North Korea Strategy Center is important to know. As of 2015, their partners included the National Endowment for Democracy, Radio Free Asia (Funded by USAGM, a US government institution), The South Korean government-created Ministry of Unification, the NED-funded Daily NK, which received $1.96 million from the NED between 2016 to 2020, and The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the US Department of State.
“Project E” ended in 2017, and as of then, the NKSC retained the same partners. NKSC would also take NED funding directly listed on its site (all NED funding before 2016 was wiped from the NED site) in 2017 and 2020, totalling $96k USD or $118,690,423.50 South Korean won.
While “Project E” was still going in 2017, HanVoice got another grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, this time worth $38k for a “Multimedia Museum for ‘North Korean Human Rights’”.
The project is described by the NED as one:
“To strengthen human rights advocacy and education efforts by providing information about the ongoing abuses in an interactive and accessible manner. The program will develop and build an online museum to house defector testimonies and other relevant information in a multimedia format.”
Ludicrously, the NED claims the online museum will serve as a “politically neutral platform for young defectors to explore and engage in human rights work.”
What has HanVoice tried to do in Canada?
HanVoice works actively to cultivate “relationships with Canadians who are in a position to change government policy towards North Korea, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, Members of Parliament, Senators, as well as officials from various other Government departments and agencies at the Federal, Provincial, and municipal level.” In fewer words, they also function as an anti-DPRK lobby group in Canada.
In view of further strengthening their lobby, HanVoice had the “HanVoice Pioneers Project” between 2013 to 2017, which is a “6-month program, which annually offers a North Korean refugee special training in advocacy and leadership, in addition to an internship with a Canadian Parliamentarian.”
The special training was held in Toronto for three months, where along with the aforementioned “special training” the “Pioneer” received, they also would engage in “hands-on advocacy work with HanVoice”. The next three months would be spent in Ottawa for a parliamentary internship in a Member of Parliament’s office, with Senator Yonah Martin being HanVoice’s “Parliamentarian partner” in Ottawa who attended HanVoice’s NED-funded international anti-DPRK conference’s policy in 2010.
HanVoice’s “Pioneers Project” was not the only Canadian government internship program offered to young anti-communist dissidents, as this author exposed the existence of a similar parliamentary internship program (which also occurs in the Ontario legislature) for young Tibet dissidents (who want regime change in Tibet, a province of China, which would lead to a return of brutal theocratic feudalism). Both parliamentary internship programs have continued to this day.
Then in 2020, HanVoice got another grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, this time an amount five times larger than before at $160k USD. The NED described the purpose of it as being to “strengthen and sustain international action to advance human rights and encourage reform in North Korea.”
The project also convened “an international symposium with key stakeholders” to “examine past achievements, and create new action plans and recommendations to advance human rights and promote ‘democratic ideals’ in North Korea”.
In September 2020, HanVoice still continued to spread anti-DPRK lies, as their board chairman Jack Kim claimed that the DPRK “runs an extensive system of concentration camps, permits no kind of democratic freedoms and cracks down severely on those who try to escape the regime”. Kim, without evidence, a theme for HanVoice, claimed that the human rights situation has “gotten worse” since Kim Jong-Un began to lead the DPRK in 2012.
In November 2021, HanVoice won a policy change they’d been seeking for eight years, to allow Canadians to privately sponsor refugees from the DPRK. The Associated Press quoted HanVoice’s executive director Sean Chung as stating that this “pilot program created in partnership with Canada’s government aims to bring five North Korean refugee families from Thailand to Canada within the next two years.”
HanVoice has been working to professionalize themselves for years. The group’s site, and their rhetoric, has become much more of that which you’d expect from a mainstream, government-backed NGO. It has successfully become Canada’s authority figure for demonizing the DPRK.
However, their past work and their rhetoric of DPRK citizens needing to be “enlighten[ed]” with the view of sparking a pro-Western, pro-capitalist “epiphany”, is where they really stand on the issue of the DPRK. In reality, HanVoice functions just as Students for a Free Tibet Canada does, as a Western government supported (financially and/or through publicity opportunities and/or public support for their campaigns) proxy to justify hatred and an aggressive, imperialist foreign policy towards an “enemy nation”, whether this be China or the DPRK.
Modern day Canadian aggression against the DPRK goes unchallenged
HanVoice’s opposition to the DPRK’s socialist society for more than a decade has had some tangible impacts on Canadian government actions towards the DPRK. In 2018, the Canadian government gave a combined $7.7 million CAD to organizations actively working to prevent the DPRK from circumventing the brutal Western sanctions regime it has faced for decades. That same year, Canada’s Armed Forces under Operation PROJECTION, worked with western nations to track DPRK attempts to evade the Western sanctions regime.
Then in 2019, Canada’s Armed Forces joined in Operation NEON, an international military operation that has the CAF join up with Australia, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. It’s purpose is very clear, to identify particular “ship-to-ship transfers of fuel” and prevent the DPRK from bringing commodities banned by UN Security Council resolutions, and most of all, “bolster the integrity of the global sanctions regime” against the DPRK.
In 2021, the Canadian government gave another $11.6 million dollars in grants to organizations tracking DPRK efforts to skirt the Western sanctions regime on them.
HanVoice now runs a “lab” that “trains students to support human rights projects abroad”. Their process consists of a “human rights training” in the fall, leading into a “’real world’ action project” facilitated by a partner organization which students work on in their local HanVoice chapter, which leads into the opportunity for some to either take an internship facilitated by a partner organization, or even the aforementioned HanVoice parliamentary internship.
HanVoice functions along with groups such as Students for a Free Tibet Canada, to push the younger generations into supporting imperialism and western aggression by bastardizing the concept of human rights. They make this into a synonym for “Western democracy”, and impose the idea upon the younger generations that our “democracy” is a model which must be imposed upon other nations, with force if they resist firmly.
They also function to build up the next generation of imperialists, those who will, having been misinformed into hating enemy nations, will eventually replace those currently leading imperialist organizations. It ensures a pipeline of people who intentionally-or-not will maintain imperialism, who will work to shape Canadian political consciousness into being even more sympathetic towards the terror and suffering western imperialism inflicts on any nation which does not submit to its dictates.
Political consciousness is constantly being manufactured in Canada, whether imperialist or anti-imperialist. The type of political consciousness which either retains or gains dominance among young Canadians will dictate Canada’s future.
Aidan Jonah is the Editor-in-Chief of The Canada Files, a socialist, anti-imperialist news site founded in 2019. He has written about Canadian imperialism, federal politics, and left-wing resistance to colonialism across the world. He is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism student at Ryerson University, who was the Head of Communications and Community Engagement for Etobicoke North NDP Candidate Naiima Farah in the 2019 Federal Election.