When David Malik graduated law school he knew he didn’t want to work for anyone else. Since his doors opened, David has taken cases that others turned down. These cases challenged David to investigate a situation from every angle and ask questions that otherwise went unanswered.
Representing police officers, labor unions and motorcycle gangs were not uncommon in the early years – when David himself was an avid motorcycle rider and befriended officers, riders and others in the tight-knit biker community. Then, in 1998, David took on a case representing a gentleman who had been paralyzed by police. Four years of investigating – and asking the right questions – led to his first multi-million dollar verdict in a civil rights’ case. He knew he had the drive, the insight and the passion to make civil rights justice his life’s work. Asking the right questions had paid off for him and his client.
Today, David Malik’s name – and his small team of associates – have become synonymous nationally with civil rights justice. In the media, he’s known as a tough litigator. For his clients, he’s known as the down-to-earth guy who returns their calls, tells them the truth, and cares enough to get personally involved in their unique situation.
Sean Kang is a co-founder of the North Korea Human Rights Watch(NKHRW). He is also a program director at the NKHRW with expertise in planning, developing, and managing new programs. Most recently, he has successfully initiated the Future Leaders of North Korea (FLNK) program, which was designed to teach North Korean defector students in high schools about capitalism, democracy and English. Additionally, he has played a major role in developing the Human Trafficking Conference (“Voices of victims: The U.S. and North Korean victims of human trafficking”) in collaboration with the University of Akron in Ohio, which is tentatively scheduled to be held in September, 2022 due to Corona Virus Pandemic.
He is also an established artist and known for his work in painting, new media and film. He earned his first MFA majoring in Photo, Video, Related Media from School of Visual Arts in NY and his second MFA in Film, Video, and New Media from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has also been passionate about educating children and published two English learning books in Korea, titled, “All about New York I & II” by Nexus Publisher. In addition, he has participated in several publications in Korea as a creative content developer for books on education.
Q: How do you believe people in Ohio perceive North Korea?
A: I can only comment on those people with whom I have personally spoken about North Korea. My impression is that there is a very healthy intellectual curiosity and desire to learn more about North Korea. There is a significant lack of understanding of the daily challenges that the majority of North Koreans face. This is one of the reasons why NKHRW was created—as an organization to educate Americans and others about the everyday challenges confronting ordinary North Koreans. NKHRW has a slogan: “Human Rights for Human Wrongs.” As such, part of our educational mission is to identify human rights abuses as human wrongs and then discuss remedies as human rights.
In Ohio, we have many human and civil rights organizations with which we intend to continue to educate others. In addition, we are expanding our educational platform to teach businesses and corporations about daily life in North Korea. We look forward to bringing corporate partners on our Board of Directors to continue to offer scholarly insights and funding for our educational vision and mission.
Q: You have shown support for the mission of resolving human rights violations in North Korea. How did you get interested in this issue?
A: My personal journey actually began as a child in religious school and continued into my college years. I learned about the persecution of various cultures from the religious, economic, and militaristic perspectives. I remember always feeling sad when I heard about world rulers who would rationalize that people are the most expendable commodity. So, my journey to protect the human rights of individuals began as a child, continues to this very moment, and will continue for the rest of my life. I strive to make my legacy lasting and sustainable and one that brings about change in human rights violators.
Q: The issue of human rights in North Korea seems to be less important to other countries in comparison to South Korea and the United States. Do you think the global community should begin addressing this issue urgently, and why?
A: NKHRW is presently working behind the scenes with the global community in this regard. We are working to integrate our mission with that of UNESCO, for example, and to be candid, we are still in the initial stages of fulfilling this part of our mission. We intend to continue garnering support from the business community as well. With the power of social media, it is natural for businesses to integrate with our mission and act with us as global partners.
On my last trip to Seoul in November 2018, I was able to identify potential business partners who were willing to promote the “Human Rights for Human Wrongs” platform. When I return in November 2019, I will complete my research in this regard. Shortly thereafter, we will launch a larger “Human Rights for Human Wrongs” social media campaign. I am very impressed with the value system of those corporations and businesses that are willing to prioritize and challenge human rights abusers in North Korea and globally.
Q: Many factors are included under human rights, such as freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Of these factors, which would you describe as the most vital?
A: The answer to your very intuitive question actually has a historical dimension. Throughout history, people and societies have recognized four essential freedoms. Specifically, democratic governments and societies, as well as those living under oppressive regimes, identify physical freedom, intellectual freedom, spiritual freedom, and freedom for others as vital. So, I do not believe in diverging from strengthening these four vital freedoms. A priority mission for NKHRW is using democratic institutions and constitutions as a model moving forward. NKHRW has the goal of effecting change through legal means. We can, when requested, provide policy advisors to help write laws, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and constitutions pursuant to well-established and successful democratic models.
This is one reason why we are investing in North Korean defectors. We want to assist these individuals in achieving their vision of studying and learning so that they can return to North Korea to teach others, write policies, and strengthen the government in a positive manner. We believe that this vision can be achieved in the next 50 years. Some people tell us that this is an impossible goal. We believe otherwise!
Q: I have committed myself to raising awareness of human rights in North Korea for a few years now, but I still have doubts about what positive effects these efforts will bring for North Korean people. In your opinion, why do you believe that student groups can help improve human rights in North Korea?
A: This question also goes to the core of our vision. NKHRW believes that the single most valuable tool in the fight for North Korean human rights is education. We have studied the value of student groups extensively, and we have determined that student groups have an innate resilience. What do I mean when I speak of innate resilience? I mean that we are finding that the age group to which university students generally belong has the energy needed to advocate. These individuals are not so young as to be naïve, nor so old as to be a group of “gray hairs” who have lost their vision and dreams. In terms of vision and energy, university students are the perfect group to advocate for human rights. So, we are infusing these groups with all the resources we can acquire.
When I was 18 years old, I was fortunate enough to be allowed into a three-month program sponsored by a physician at Harvard Medical School. The physician/professor felt that undergraduates had the right energy and could perform research at the post-doctoral level. So, he developed a plan to allow five students from around the country to work in a laboratory called the Channing Memorial Library. He required us to go on rounds at Boston City Hospital. Finally, we gained access to the medical school and its library. At the end of those three months, I had conducted two studies with others that resulted in two publications in professional medical journals. I never knew, until given the chance, that I could achieve something like that at the undergraduate level.
So, personal experience has shown us that enthusiastic university students can achieve great things even at the undergraduate level. By the way, this hands-on experience showed me which direction my professional life should take, for I also learned that I was better off being a lawyer than a physician.
Q: Many civil communities are competent and devoted to improving the rights of North Korean people. Nevertheless, why do you choose to support student communities?
A: The answer to this important question reflects a little selfishness on our part. Just as NKHRW gives to student groups to fight human rights violations, we benefit as well because we obtain joy from empowering university students. It is an actual palpable joy. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work at NKHRW go to sleep at night feeling that we are helping others by empowering them to make life better globally and to create a better world for our own children and grandchildren.
Student communities are ripe with fresh ideas. This is why NKHRW promotes student events with scholarly speakers, interactive discussions, and even a YouTube channel featuring the now acclaimed “My Story: A North Korean Tale.” These stories from South Korean Students and North Korean defector students are quite inspiring. “My Story: A North Korean Tale” tells individual stories of how defectors overcome the challenges of starting life again. The stories are awesome and inspiring. Again, they demonstrate the amazing intelligence and resilience of the Korean people. NKHRW is so proud of these individuals and the students and organizations that support them.
Minho Jang is majoring in political science at Korea University, South Korea. He served in the army for two years and was discharged in 2014. He joined a student club, LIBERTAS, in 2016, and he served as president for one year. In 2018, he had an internship at the Seoul office of Liberty in North Korea, also known as LINK, and he is currently in the United States to learn more about human rights with sponsorship from the U.S. Department of State. He has an interest in understanding how the development of technology affects human rights in an authoritarian regime.