On 8–11 August 2022, the Institute of National Remembrance is organizing a visit of representatives of the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR) in Poland. The agenda includes seeing Polish memorial sites, and getting acquainted with the activities of substantial divisions of the Institute of National Remembrance.
Founded in 1996, the Alliance deals with the fight for human rights, legal aid and supporting North Korean refugees. This will be the second visit of NKHR representatives to the Institute of National Remembrance. In August 2017, we hosted the management of the organization together with a group of six students - displaced persons from North Korea.
At the Institute of National Remembrance, the NKHR were welcomed by Agnieszka Jędrzak, Director of the IPN Office of International Cooperation, who described the structure of the Institute and the scope of its international activities. The delegation was particularly interested in the International Cooperation Office’s project “The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg.” For the last 2.5 years the exhibition of 15 Holocaust sculptures has been touring Poland. The project international edition has just been announced and is to be launched soon, starting from German memorial sites. The NKHR would be interested in showing the exhibition in South Korea, together with some specimens of Korean art depicting the functioning of concentration camps.
Later on that day, the delegation visited the IPN Archive, which included taking part in a workshop on transitional justice.
A measurable aspect of the cooperation between the Institute of National Remembrance and the NKHR is the "North Korean Archives" project. It aims to present the documentation stored at the Institute of National Remembrance on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, collected by communist secret services in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe: https://northkoreanarchives.org/.
On the following day they had the opportunity to meet the IPN Deputy President Prof. Karol Polejowski, who officially welcomed them to the IPN, and discussed the mission and tasks of the Institute in the context of the role of similar institutions is the transformation period. He encouraged the guests to draw from the IPN expertise, when searching for solutions that might be applied in the prospective process of democratization of North Korea. It was agreed that the IPN and the NKHR should strengthen their cooperation as regards joint research, publishing and educational projects devoted to the reappraisal of the past and the transformation process.
The Korean guests also learnt about the activities of the International Cooperation Office, the Office of New Technologies, and the Chief Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation.
The final part of the visit was devoted to a presentation by Deputy President of the IPN Prof. Krzysztof Szwagrzyk on the activities of the IPN Office of Search and Identification. Prof. Szwagrzyk introduced the guests to the idea of the IPN search for German and Soviet victims, condemned to oblivion by those two totalitarian regimes. The aim is to restore their names, the rightful place both in the Polish history and social consciousness. He stressed the complexity of this process, which entails cooperation with numerous institutions. He also described some technical tools such as the CODIS system, granted to the IPN by the FBI, and used to compare samples of genetic material, which is necessary for the identification process.
The Korean students expressed thanked the IPN for the Warsaw Agenda. They stressed how important for them it had been to be able to see Polish memorial sites, and to relate these newly acquired experiences to the Korean history of dealing with totalitarian regimes and enslavement, and the way it is narrated and commemorated. They were also impressed with the Polish model of settling with the past as implemented by the IPN. As one person put it: “I have learnt that your model is not as much about people who were aggrieved by totalitarian regimes but about each and every human being to whom you restore their dignity.”
As part of the visit to Warsaw, the delegation visited the IPN Museum of Cursed Soldiers and Political Prisoners of the People's Republic of Poland, and the IPN Memorial Chamber at 8 Strzelecka Street, dedicated to prisoners of the detention center of the Provincial Office of Public Security in Warsaw. The guests will also visit Wrocław, where at the Zajezdnia History Center they will have an opportunity to see the IPN exhibition "The Image of Treblinka in the Eyes of Samuel Willenberg", which is now being presented in Wrocław. Introducing the Korean guests with the heritage of the Holocaust is aimed at depicting the fate of prisoners and everyday life in a death camp through art. The said exhibition will also constitute a prelude to the visit to the Auschwitz Memorial on the following day.
They will also see the permanent exhibition of the History center, devoted to the recent, post-war history of Wrocław and Lower Silesia. The last item on the program in Poland will be visiting memorials in Cracow. The Director of the Center is also President of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience founded in 2011 of which the IPN is one of the founding members. The aim of the Platform is cooperation in the field of spreading knowledge about totalitarian regimes and commemorating their victims.
The last part of the agenda in Poland will be visiting memorial sites in Cracow.
The delegation is chaired by Joanna Hosaniak, Ph.D., Deputy Director General of the Alliance and honorary citizen of Seoul, and Director Jaechun Won, Professor of international law at Handong Global University and former prosecutor. The participants include persons active in various spheres of social life, such as diplomacy, education, IT, art or the media.