The Human Rights Forum, perhaps the largest, most celebrated event of its kind in the Human Rights field, gathers philanthropists, and major businessmen in Oslo, Norway once a year. They attend lectures and events in which human rights campaigners and dissidents from all over the world explain their causes. Many of them walk away with new-found backers from among the rich philanthropists.
This event, which some call the Davos of the Human Rights Industry, wouldn’t happen without Thor Halvorssen and his not-for-profit, the Human Rights Organization. Halvorssen’s organization employs twelve people and is based in New York.
Thor comes from a long line of Human Rights campaigners. His grandfather was a Norwegian diplomat who took a stand against the Nazis during World War II. He once allegedly even beat up a Nazi official. His father was a tireless anti-corruption campaigner who found himself thrown into a Venezuelan jail when he tried to reveal state corruption. His mother, meanwhile, was once shot as she protested against Hugo Chavez’s corrupt regime in the streets of Caracas. Luckily, his mother survived.
Although Thor is no fan of the people who run his country, he reserves special opprobrium for the Kim family, who run North Korea. The country, called “The Hermit Kingdom” in much of the western world, has been ruled with an iron fist by three generations of the Kim family. The North Korean people have suffered immensely under their clutches. In the 1990s, as the Kim went on a quest to fund a nuclear program, a famine swept through the country, reportedly killing millions of people.
The North Korean people today live cut off from the rest of the word. The few North Koreans who have managed to escape the country tell horror stories of their treatment by the regime and how little they know of the outside world.
Thor works to change that. He organizes groups that buy hot air balloons that carry Hollywood movies, South Korean newspapers, magazines, and banned books. They send the hot-air balloons over the border and release the packages over the North Korean countryside, where they hope people will find them.