Norbert Vollertsen (born 10 February 1958 in Düsseldorf) is a German doctor and human rights activist.
Vollertsen practiced medicine in North Korea from 1999 to 2001 with the Cap Anamur Committee, a non-governmental cooperation organization. In August 1999, he and Francois Large, another aid worker, donated their skin to Pak Jong Thae, a tractor factory worker in Haeju, South Hwanghae, who had suffered burns over three-quarters of his body and underwent three skin grafting operations. In recognition of his contribution, Vollertsen received the official Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Friendship Medal for his humanitarian assistance later that same month, in a ceremony attended by Supreme People's Assembly vice-president Yang Hyong Sop. He was also given a pass that allowed him to travel through the country freely, which was very unusual for a foreigner.
As he traveled in his capacity as an emergency physician, tending to the illnesses and injuries of common North Koreans in the countryside, he struggled with a nearly non-existent healthcare system, abject poverty and growing proof of a network of political prisons in North Korea that enforced the flow of wealth from the citizenry to the Pyongyang-based Korean People's Army and the Workers' Party of Korea which was then headed by Kim Jong-il. Using smuggled cameras, he obtained photos and films of flagrant, large-scale human rights violations in North Korea. In particular, mass starvation was used as a tool of political control. He began collecting evidence of abuses, which he passed to a visiting United States Congress man, an act for which he was put under surveillance. Despite this Vollertsen continued to speak out against the North Korean government, which soon lost patience and forced him to leave North Korea in January 2001. Soon after returning home, he gave an interview about his experiences in North Korea, which the North Korean government denounced.
The North Korean government has portrayed him as a dishonest media manipulator who is suffering from mental instability. His wife, reacting to his decision to stay in South Korea as an anti-Kim activist, divorced him and is raising their children with a partner. "My wife blamed me for not taking care of my family. She said my vision, my goals, my projects, were worth much more to me. And afterwards, I realised she was right. I do not want to sacrifice my family. But I know my wife and her partner are taking care of my children, and that they are safe and healthy. But the North Korean children are not", said Vollertsen in 2003.
In September 2006, Vollertsen claimed that he had been attacked by a gang and had been run over by a taxi while in Seoul prior to giving a speech on North Korea.
He has written the book Inside North Korea: Diary of a Mad Place, published in 2004. It was earlier translated into Japanese by Midori Segi and published in Japan in 2001.
- Vollertsen, Norbert (2004). Inside North Korea: Diary of a Mad Place. San Francisco: Encounter Books. ISBN 978-1-893554-87-0.