Veteran of Serbian opposition movement addresses N.K. human rights seminar
Published : May 2, 2012 - 19:18
Updated : May 2, 2012 - 19:18
Veterans of the movement to oust Slobodan Milosevic from power now travel the world teaching people how non-violent resistance can undermine dictatorships, including North Korea.

One of them, Sinisa Sikman, came to Seoul last week to speak at a workshop on how the principles of non-violent struggle, and specific lessons from Eastern Europe, could be applied to the regime in the North.
Sinisa Sikman speaks in Seoul last week. (Rob York)

The workshop Sikman spoke at took place April 25 at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in Seoul. Entitled “European-Korean Human Rights Dialogue: The experience of promoting human rights in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and beyond,” it was co-sponsored by the North Korean human rights/defectors assistance organization PSCORE and the Germany-based Hanns Seidel Foundation.

Sikman said that it is important to teach the principles of non-violent resistance around the world because they are not taught in most schools.

“If you want to learn non-violence you are (usually) forced to go to organized religion,” he said.

Sikman became involved in opposing the rule of Slobodan Milosevic in 1991 in Serbia, participating in a protest against the brutal treatment of Milosevic’s opposition. Sikman was not yet a high school graduate at the time, but the struggle against Milosevic would continue for the rest of the decade.

In the late ‘90s, Sikman was among the founding members of Otpor (“Resistance” in Serbian), a youth movement formed to help unite opposition to Milosevic. In the fall of 2000 they finally succeeded in driving him from power.

Sikman, along with other members of the movement that toppled Milosevic, have since been involved in leading workshops and seminars on non-violent resistance, citing statistics that indicate non-violence is more successful at dislodging dictators than taking up arms. Their audiences have included Ukrainians, who would later apply those tactics during the Orange Revolution of 2004 and Egyptians who took part in the rebellion that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year. Materials and information are provided through their site

However, Sikman admitted that it would be better if those inside North Korea were able to learn these lessons.

“North Korea is a really specific situation,” he said. “We need to be able to communicate with them and they need to be able to communicate with each other.”

By isolating the North, Sikman said that the international community is actually strengthening the Kim regime. Sikman said that he prefers an approach similar to the Sunshine Policy of the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, and said that the current approach is “totally stupid in my opinion.”

“Revolutions cannot be exported,” Sikman said. “You cannot force changes from the outside.”

In addition to Sikman’s testimony, the workshop included participation from former human rights ambassador from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Jhe Seong-ho, political counselor to the British Embassy Alisdair Walker, and Jack Rendler of Amnesty International USA.

By Rob York