Thor Halvorssen Does Great Work

Thor Halvorssen has human rights in his genes. His father was a legendary political figure in his native Venezuela, who was thrown in prison after he tried to expose high-level corruption. His mother was once shot and badly wounded in a protest against the authoritarian policies of the late Hugo Chavez. But that’s not all. Thor’s grandfather, a noted Norwegian diplomat, resisted the Nazis, and once even got into a fistfight with a Nazi.

So, even though Thor comes from a privileged background, he hasn’t forgotten about the plight of those who are less fortunate. He attended college in the United States (the University of Pennsylvania) and, upon graduation, has devoted his professional life to human rights.

He founded his own Human Rights organization, the Human Rights Foundation, which today is based in New York and employs 12 people. Every year, Thor and his team host an illustrious human rights event called the Oslo Forum. Some have likened to the Davos Forum of the Human Rights World. He invites powerful, wealthy philanthropists and Human Rights activists from authoritarian countries in the developing world. The activists speak in front of philanthropist audiences, who often contribute large sums of money and work their connections for the activists’ causes.

If there’s one country close to Thor’s heart, it’s North Korea. The isolated Asian country has been ruled by three generations of the Kim family. Its population has suffered under communism and even endured a famine in the 1990’s that decimated its people. The country remains almost completely cut off from the rest of the world.

But Thor is working to change that. His mission is to deliver western media—movies, TV shows, criticisms of the North Korean regime—to the North Korean people. In this effort, he’s launched hot-air balloons, equipped with western media, from South Korea. Once the hot-air balloons infiltrate North Korean airspace, they are timed to drop their items in the North Korean countryside. Thor especially wants to North Koreans to get ahold of, “The Interview,” a Seth Rogan movie that skewers North Korea’s leader.

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