October 18, 2011

Students ‘Drop Dead’ on Ho Plaza to Educate About North Korea

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To raise awareness about the human rights crisis in North Korea, students pretended to drop dead and laid motionless on Ho Plaza on Tuesday to represent victims of starvation and prison camps.

Wearing black to express mourning, some participants laid on the ground as part of the stunt, called “Operation Drop Dead,” while others held posters and handed out quarter cards, according to June Shin ’12, the president of NK Focus.

The stunt was performed twice: The first time, students laid on the plaza for more than five minutes, and the second stunt lasted almost 15 minutes.

Participants used signs with facts about the crisis in North Korea to educate passersby. One third of North Korean children are malnourished, signs stated, and there are six known concentration camps in North Korea.

As students walked by, some turned their heads while others stopped to observe the event.

“I had no idea [the situation in North Korea] was that bad. It’s certainly shocking that one third of the children in North Korea are malnourished,” Ronald Velez ’15 said.

James Underberg ’13 said he also was surprised to see the statistics.

“I had some idea of the situation [in North Korea], but I certainly did not know how bad it was,” Underberg said.

Shin said many people are not aware of the human rights violations in North Korea, and that she hoped the event would spread awareness among Cornellians.

“People associate North Korea with the government, not the civilians who suffer,” said Miri Park ’12, a participant in the event.

Laurent Ferri, who works at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell, stopped to engage with participants.

“Often it is difficult to really know what is going on in North Korea because of all the censorship, but it’s good that this issue is in people’s minds,” Ferri said.

The idea of pretending to drop dead was borrowed from a similar stunt that occured at Binghamton University in 2007 to raise awareness about human rights crises in North Korea, according to Shin.

Shin said she thought the stunt was successful.

“At least we got to talk about this to some people,” she said. “Some people were skeptical because they thought that we, as students, could not do anything tangible.”

Looking to the future, Shin said the group hopes to gather a broader constituency of Cornell students to address the crisis.

“We have over 400 people signed up on our list-serv. About 20 people come out, and most of them are South Korean. So we do still need to work on the diversity issue, but it’s really hard,” Shin said.

Original Author: Jinjoo Lee