Last Sunday I met up with Gilad Cohen, the founder of the upcoming North Korean Human Rights Film Festival (NKHRFF), for coffee. Over a rather delicious latte (for me) and espresso (for Gilad) we bonded over our experiences living in Korea. I always love talking to others who share my love of Korean culture.
But I wasn’t there just to reminisce, I had a more serious purpose. I wanted to learn more about the NKHRFF and how the idea for it came about. And I was completely shocked with Gilad’s answer. You see, he visited Kaesong just weeks before I had planned to, only I never got the chance because the border closed a week before I was supposed to go.
Why is this significant?
Kaesong is in North Korea! For a short time, the border between South Korea and North Korea was open and tourists were allowed to take a day trip over the border. It was such a novelty, a curiosity that thousands went – foreigners and Koreans both. I didn’t get to make the trip because the week before I was to go, a North Korean soldier shot and killed a South Korean tourist who strayed over the prescribed boundaries. You see, it was all scripted and those who made the trip were only allowed to see and do exactly what was on the script. If you went off script or off track, you could be shot and one poor woman was.
I didn’t make that trip but Gilad did and it opened his eyes up to what North Korea was like. Not because he saw anything bad during his brief time there but because he was constantly told how wonderful everything was, even when he hadn’t asked.
After returning to Canada, he continued to learn about North Korea and through an internship that was a requirement of his International Development program, he returned to South Korea to work at PSCORE, a human rights organization, in Seoul. There he was introduced to the first North Korean Human Rights International Film Festival in 2011 and the dream was born.
Gilad hopes, as do the other volunteers who are working to put on the NKHRFF in Toronto, that by using the medium of film, they can help raise awareness of the human rights abuses that are happening in North Korea right now.
But they need our help! The NKHRFF is a volunteer run – and completely new – festival. And festivals, no matter how small or big, need money to run. NKHRFF needs to raise $6,500 and one way they are doing it is by throwing a party! Everyone loves a party! So come on out on Saturday to JangBang and support this fantastic new film festival that’s putting the spotlight on North Korea. All the proceeds go towards NKHRFF.
Oh, and don’t forget to have a drink or two! The generous people at JangBang are donating 10% of all bar sales that night!!
They will be announcing the festival line-up and tickets to the film festival itself – July 6-8 – will also be on sale at the fundraiser. You know you want to come! I’ll be there so stop by and say “Hi”!
Just the facts:
- What: NKHRFF Fundraiser
- Where: JangBang (430.5 College Street)
- When: June 9th at 9:00 pm
- How much: $10
- Why: you can purchase festival tickets & listen to live music while supporting a great cause
- NKHRFF Facebook page and Facebook event page
Can’t make it to their fundraiser? You can still help by donating online!