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Joanna Hosaniak

Joanna Hosaniak, photography by Łukasz Laskowski

Joanna Hosaniak was born in 1973 in Warsaw, Poland. Through her father, who was an engineer often taking on contracts in Japan, she was exposed to the Far Eastern culture. She enrolled at the Faculty of Japanese Studies of the Warsaw University. She passed her entry exams, however, due to lack of places, she ended up in Korean Studies. She was with the first class who studied South Korean Philology at the Faculty of Oriental Studies as opposed to North Korean Philology. During that time, Joanna developed an interest with the fates of the citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, their day-to-day lives and repressions they faced in this isolated country. After graduation, she worked at the Embassy of South Korea in Warsaw. Her growing interest in human rights infringements in North Korea made Joanna take a course organised by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, where she started working afterwards.

In 2003, the South Korean Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (CAfNKHR) organised a conference in Warsaw on the topic of refugees and human rights in North Korea in cooperation with the HFHR. Joanna was one of the organisers on the Polish side. Seeing her dedication, the CAfNKHR Director offered her a job at the organisation’s headquarters in Seoul. After two months, Joanna moved to South Korea. In 2013, CAfNKHR efforts resulted in the UN setting up a committee to make North Korea pay for her crimes against humanity. At the same year, Joanna became an honorary citizen of Seoul in recognition of her activities for human rights in North Korea, and was the first foreigner amongst the Dong-a Ilbo magazine’s 100 persons having the biggest influence on South Korea. In 2016, she defended her doctoral thesis in international relations at the Sogang University in Seoul in the scope of transition period law in Central Europe, and legal order changes and possibility of applying certain mechanisms if the two Koreas were to unite.

Today, Joanna Hosaniak is the Deputy Director at the Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights. In her opinion, North and South Korea will be united soon.

Interview conducted by Barbara Majchrowicz on 26 August 2017 in Warsaw.
Photography and editing by Łukasz Laskowski

interview excerpts
Studying Korean in Poland
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The changing of the guard in the Korean Faculty, Warsaw University
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The first time in Korea
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Looking for Korea in Poland
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Work at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
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Conference about North Korea in Warsaw
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„I have to prepare for the trip to Korea”
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Moving out
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