Thor Halvorssen, the founder and president of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), isn’t afraid of tyrants when it comes to standing up for human rights and individual liberties. Halvorssen and HRF’s campaign against North Korea’s third-generation dictator Kim Jong-un were the subjects of a feature article written by Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard. In the article, Labash explains how Halvorssen has worked tirelessly with North Korean defectors and other activists to find ways to spread the message of freedom to a nation that has been under despotic rule for more than 70 years.
Halvorssen’s work has made him a target of the North Korean government. Some of his tactics include using balloons and slingshots to disseminate leaflets and other contraband items into North Korea. Halvorssen has also encouraged activists to engage in a hacking war with the North Korean government. North Korea has responded to Halvorssen’s actions by threatening to assassinate him and members of his group if they conduct future balloon launches into North Korea.
According to Huffington Post, Halvorssen’s willingness to take on dictators seems to be embedded in his DNA. Born in Venezuela to a father of Norwegian descent and a Venezuelan mother, Halvorssen was educated in a British boarding school and later went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. Halvorssen’s father, the former drug czar of Venezuela, became a political prisoner in 1993 after exposing corruption in the Venezuelan government. Just over a decade later in 2004, Halvorssen’s mother was shot and severely wounded while protesting the government of Hugo Chavez. It was the shooting of his mother that led Thor Halvorssen to launch HRF in 2005.
HRF is unique from other human rights organizations in that it only tackles human rights abuses in non-democratic societies such as Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba. Since its founding, HRF has played a critical role in the release of several political prisoners. Thor Halvorssen and HRF are also well-known for hosting the Oslo Freedom Forum, which has become a major gathering for political dissidents and human rights activists from around the globe.
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