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Pyongyang
November 27, 2021

Meet Our Volunteers

Daily NK relies on bilingual volunteers located throughout the globe to bring its news into the English language. Some of our volunteers have agreed to share their thoughts about volunteering with the organization and how they became interested in North Korean affairs.

Interested in volunteering at Daily NK? We are currently seeking proficient Korean to English translators. Check out our Idealist page here.

Gabriela Bernal

Gabriela Bernal volunteers to help translate Daily NK articles from Korean to English and also contributes to the organization’s weekly newsletter, Daily NK Weekly Briefing. She tells Daily NK she first got interested in North Korea after visiting Cambodia:

“[I got interested in North Korea after visiting a] North Korean restaurant in Cambodia and having some conversations with North Korean girls who worked there. That experience introduced me to a different side of North Korea I had never seen before; the side involving real people. The tragedy of the separation of Korea really made an impact on me that day, and I’ve been studying the country ever since.”

Later, she found out about Daily NK and she recalls she thought volunteering for the organization would be an “opportunity to be able to learn more about day-to-day happenings in North Korea, other than the usual limited news we get. I wanted to learn more about the more local issues going on in the country and how ordinary North Koreans live, which very, very few other news outlets cover.”

Although Gabriela finds the translation work at Daily NK “sometimes challenging” she enjoys the opportunity to “constantly expand my Korean language knowledge as well as learning more about developments in North Korean society. She also knows that, over time, this knowledge will help her gain a very competitive level of expertise among Korea scholars. She told Daily NK that “I have learned more about North Korea in the past six months through translating for Daily NK than I had in the previous two years. The knowledge you can gain through translation work is truly astounding.”

She told Daily NK that one the most rewarding things she has gotten from translating Daily NK articles is learning about “real life in North Korea through real, ordinary North Korean citizens.” Gabriela pointed out that most of the news reported about North Korea is usually about the country’s leader, the nuclear weapons program, and other political subjects. “This is how Daily NK is different,” she said. “Sure, Daily NK also reports on these important issues but they go much deeper than that and try and give readers a much broader picture of what life inside the country is actually like. From topics like what is being sold at markets, what North Koreans think about the latest South Korean drama, the latest domestically-made electronic products, and more, Daily NK covers North Korea in the broadest sense and better than any other news outlet out there.”

Gabriela tells Daily NK she thinks that it’s important to “keep an open mind and remember that North Korea is much more than just nukes or Kim Jong Un. There are real people living there, with real stories, just like you and me.” She suggests that readers of Daily NK should “really reflect on every story you read, since the North Korean citizen who gave us that information is risking a lot just to get this news to you.”

Interested in becoming a volunteer translator for Daily NK? Please visit our Idealist page here for more details.

Jason Bartlett

Jason Bartlett contributes his time and energy to help translate Daily NK’s Korean language content into English for a wider audience. He was first exposed to North Korea during a semester abroad in Seoul when he was grouped together with a North Korean defector student for a team project. In his telling: “I entered South Korea with an academic background in international relations and returned to the United States with a dedication to contribute to the field of North Korean studies.” 

After returning to the United States, Jason made the decision to pursue a career in North Korean human rights advocacy and policy analysis through a five-year plan including several internships, Korean language immersion programs, and a master’s degree in Asian Studies from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

After graduating from the Korean Language Institute (KLI) at Yonsei University and receiving his master’s degree, he came across Daily NK’s volunteer translator opportunity and decided to volunteer. “As the majority of North Korean analysts abroad do not speak or read Korean fluently, I feel it is essential to address the dearth of relevant and current North Korean-related information in English,” Jason told Daily NK.

Jason believes that Daily NK offers unique insight into North Korea by obtaining information from sources inside the country and that these pieces of information make for interesting and exciting translation assignments. “I highly recommend volunteering at Daily NK for those who wish to contribute to the international narrative on North Korea. This volunteer position allows you to challenge your translation skills and raises your understanding of North Korean politics, society, culture, and even language because the North Korean dialect varies from the South,” he said. 

Jason said that he would have trouble finding another Seoul-based online newspaper focusing on North Korea that offers the same kind of information in both Korean and English. “Since Daily NK reports on a wide variety of North Korean issues ranging from institutionalized human rights violations and COVID-19 containment policies to cyber and ballistic warfare development efforts, I hope that readers will take advantage of this unique access to the world inside North Korea,” he said. 

Interested in becoming a volunteer translator for Daily NK? Please visit our Idealist page here for more details.

Esther Ra

In her telling, Esther Ra, who works at Saejowi, a nonprofit NGO that supports North Korean resettlement through medical services, got interested in North Korea as a young child after “reading several memoirs by North Korean defectors and meeting a pastor who worked with underground churches in North Korea shortly afterwards.” 

She feels that, as a South Korean, she has the responsibility to be aware of her country’s history in its present unfolding, and to take whatever small action she can to promote peace and justice in her homeland.

Through her work at Saejowi, and also as the founding editor of The Underwater Railroad, a literary unification project, she found herself referring frequently to Daily NK’s resources for up-to-date, reliable information on North Korea:

“In what many call a post-truth world, meticulous reporting and research has become more important than everespecially for North Korea, a subject on which speculation and conspiracy theories flourish. By volunteering, I hope to help spread more accurate knowledge and learn more about North Korea’s current situation myself.”

Esther tells Daily NK that volunteering at the organization is a “valuable opportunity for anyone who takes an interest in North Korea.” She says that even people with a background in North Korean studies can stay informed on current events, while people who are just beginning to learn about North Korea can gain important insight on various aspects of North Korean culture, language, politics, and society.

She appreciates that Daily NK obtains information directly from sources within North Korea rather than through outside speculation, and “highlights not only larger political events but also the individual experiences and emotions of everyday people in North Korean, expressed in their own words.” She tells Daily NK that this kind of reporting “makes for a far fuller narrative about North Korea, and allows us to hear the human voices beyond the border.”

Esther believes that, when it comes to North Korea, our attention and concern has value. Through continuing to learn and care, she hopes that we can continue moving towards peace and justice for Korea, in whatever ways remain possible to us.

Interested in becoming a volunteer translator for Daily NK? Please visit our Idealist page here for more details.

Vilde Olaussen

Vilde Olaussen tells Daily NK that, from early on, she was fascinated by the Korean Peninsula and eager to learn more about the story under the surface of what they showed on the news, beyond the endless visual stream of nuclear weapons and military parades. This led her to study Korean Studies at the undergraduate level at the University of Sheffield, where she built her Korean language proficiency and wider knowledge of politics, history, culture and society on the peninsula and in the Northeast Asian region.

After an exchange year in South Korea attending the Korean language institute at Korea University, she took another year out to complete an internship at the Norwegian Embassy in Seoul, where she was responsible for research and reporting on inter-Korean relations. The research process introduced her to an array of domestic non-governmental organizations in South Korea working in the field of human rights, and later inspired her thesis on the advocacy practices employed by transnational activist networks for North Korean human rights.

Now she is pursuing a masters of arts degree at Seoul National University in International Studies, where she is particularly interested in transnational civil society cooperation strategies and the effects of migration and diaspora communities on development. She tells Daily NK that her interests in North Korean affairs continue to lie at the heart of this research.

Vilde became a frequent reader of Daily NK when she was working at the Norwegian embassy. She says that Daily NK offered a reprieve from the often sensationalized and unbalanced mainstream media coverage of North Korea. It became an important part of her background source material because of its informed political analysis and testimonies from people who risk their lives to provide the outside world with information from inside North Korea.

While volunteering as a translator at Daily NK, she says that the articles she is given to translate can be challenging at times, but she finds the process very enjoyable as a chance to both expand her Korean language knowledge and sharpen her writing skills in English. Her work with Daily NK is on a volunteer basis, but she tells Daily NK that the experience and knowledge volunteers can receive in return is priceless.

“The translator position is valuable not only as a chance to build your translation portfolio and develop expertise in the field of North Korean affairs, but also as it gives you the chance to make a difference, even in small ways.”

Vilde believes that enabling the flows of information, both in and out of North Korea, and making it accessible to a wider audience is vital to find a sustainable solution to the human rights situation in North Korea. She says that the work of Daily NK is facilitating this process of information dissemination and spreading the stories of marginalized people is invaluable. Vilde thinks that governmental repression in North Korea prevents the forming of a domestic grassroots movement for human rights through formal political structures and the onus is on the international community to direct the attention to the severity of the human rights abuses occurring in the country.

She also tells Daily NK that discourse on North Korea is often politicized, which has prevented the formation of a unified approach to North Korean human rights, both domestically in South Korea and in an extended global context. According to her, the interplay of hegemonic geopolitics and the strategic interests of the nation-state obscures the value of individual lives. Vilde says that North Korea’s story shows the tragic consequences of a nation divided by the forces of great power structures and the lived experiences of the people who had to bear the costs of this division. She believes that this makes it more important than ever to listen to the voices of the people who actually live under the regime, responding to their need to be heard and pushing for consensus-finding efforts among actors that can actually make a difference.

Interested in becoming a volunteer translator for Daily NK? Please visit our Idealist page here for more details.

Seongjin Park

Seongjin Park, a 2022 Candidate at Choong Ang University’s Advanced Interpretation Programme, got interested in North Korea when he worked for the South Korean air force several years ago. During his service, he worked with an intelligence team from the US Air Force and attended daily briefings about what was happening in North Korea. He was intrigued by what he learned during the briefings:

“Some of the open-source intel came from Daily NK as it provided accurate, unique stories about what North Korean people were doing and going through. These narratives were interesting to me because information from military sources tended to be focused on the political, or military sides of the country whereas Daily NK stories were more about the ‘real people’ living in the country, told by people living there.”

Seongjin now helps Daily NK translate its articles into English for an international audience. He said that his involvement in North Korean affairs as a translator for Daily NK is buoyed by the feeling he is making a difference “however small that might be.” He notes that “Military aircraft or satellites may take pictures of the country, but they don’t tell you how the people live there. I think that is what Daily NK excels at and that is what makes it unique.”

Seongjin suggests that others who are thinking about volunteering for Daily NK should keep in mind that “volunteering works both ways: it not only helps others but also yourselves, too. Particularly when your job as a volunteer is related to your career. And you may find volunteering rewarding. If you are interested in volunteering, don’t hesitate and just do it.”

Interested in becoming a volunteer translator for Daily NK? Please visit our Idealist page here for more details.

Audrey Gregg

Audrey’s interest in North Korea began when she read the graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. Over the course of the next few years, she read more books on the topic, including Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and Suki Kim’s Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite. Audrey became truly invested in the politics of the Korean peninsula when she began working as a translator for 주성하TV, a defector-run YouTube channel, and starting meeting defectors regularly. Audrey had always had an interest in the Korean language and culture, and was blown away by the stories she heard about the lives of people living only 60 kilometers away from her office. While it may go without saying, Audrey believes there is a gulf between an average American’s understanding of North Korea and the day-to-day reality of living there, as recounted to her by her new friends and colleagues. Not only were these stories more evocative than what she had been exposed to previously, but they also suggested to her that, despite the efforts of some of the most powerful news agencies in the world, what goes on north of the DMZ still largely remains a mystery.

Audrey has followed Daily NK for a few years now, and frequently cited its articles at Freedom for North Korea (now Investigating North Korea) at New York University.

She admires how Daily NK generates its news content and likes that it provides a platform for defectors and those living in North Korea to speak earnestly about their experiences without editorialization. In particular, she feels honored to work with an organization that has directly employed so many North Korean journalists and informants. By working with Daily NK, she hopes she can improve access to non-partisan, accurate information about North Korea.

According to Audrey, the most important work that Daily NK does is providing news directly from its informants within North Korea and giving a platform for North Koreans to speak candidly about their lives. Most of the news she sees about North Korea is supported by conjecture, not fact, which makes it very difficult for readers to parse what is true and what isn’t. There’s no better way to learn about a country as secretive as North Korea than through the reports of stringers, and Daily NK has created a phenomenal channel for doing so, she says.

Audrey would encourage anyone interested in volunteering with Daily NK to apply. She says that it’s crucial that quality reporting about North Korea be accessible abroad, and helping translate is an amazing way to make sure that information is not blocked along national lines. She believes that it’s also a phenomenal way to learn more about North Korea across a number of different fields, and master some North Korean phrases while you’re at it. (Her favorite North Korean word that she’s come across is 날라리풍, or delinquency.) Working with Daily NK has allowed her to hone her translation skills in the field she works in, so she would highly recommend it to those who are bilingual and have an interest in North Korea.

If Audrey could tell Daily NK readers anything, it would be that “pitying people is dehumanizing in its own right.” She further tells Daily NK that:

“If you are interested in North Korea and the lives of those who live there, do your best to diversify how you get your information and news, and seek out first-person accounts. As with anything, make an effort to think critically about the message the news you consume is trying to convey, and the interests of those producing it.”

Interested in becoming a volunteer translator for Daily NK? Please visit our Idealist page here for more details.