My co-author, Lord David Alton of Liverpool, opened the event with a warm welcome after which he gave an short talk described by some of the guests as “eye-opening” and “a revelation”. David described his life history relating to human rights advocacy, revealing the heroes and colleagues who motivated him to join in the Good Fight, before moving on to his recent engagement with North Korea.
He is a very engaging and well-informed speaker, as one would expect from the peer of the realm. As he spoke, he acknowledged individuals in the audience, including Danny Smith of the Jubilee Campaign, Baroness Cox (of course), the heroic blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng to name but few. I knew there were some iconic, courageous and selfless people in the room but, as David spoke, I realised I was utterly surrounded by them. It was humbling.
Then it was my turn to speak.
I did not want to go on too long, so I stuck to describing not the book itself but the effect writing it has had on my life. I told the assembly that:
- The book helped me reconnect human faces to statistics. For instance, I am keenly, painfully, aware that every one of the 2.5 million North Koreans who died in the famine of the 1990’s had a face and a name and a family. They were all somebody’s son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister or spouse. And because we share a common and precious humanity, they are my brothers, sisters, parents and children.
- The book makes the case that we all must intervene. There is something that all of us can do to rehumanise the dialogue between North Korea and the World. And, because of point 1, we must do it.
I admit my emotions ran deep as I spoke and the audience could see that. They were kind with their applause and, wonderfully, Baroness Cox (who wrote the book’s foreword) stood as I sat down and added some warm and encouraging words of her own.
The speaking session was followed by a time of questions-and-answers, after which we mingled and chatted. I enjoyed meeting everyone, and I was especially thrilled to meet the new British Ambassador to North Korea, Mr Michael Gifford. I was also very proud to have my wife Amy, my parents and my sisters-in-law there. I would also like to thank Ali Hull, both as a representative of the publisher Lion and also as the person who put me onto the book in the first place.
It was a wonderful evening, which finished with a drink or two at the Westminster Tavern — a marvellous way to finish.
BUYING THE BOOK:
Scroll down to the bottom of this previous post for links to online shops.