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A True Friend of North Korean Defectors

Posted August. 08, 2003 21:50,   


“I am greatly indebted to this man, for he has changed the hellish lives of my family into heaven.”

On August 8, in courtroom 309 of Seoul District Court, during the final trial on the appeal case of Mr. Lee (37, intermediary for smuggling North Korean defectors into Korea), Ms. Kim (72) was present as a witness and testified in an earnest voice:

“Most of the defectors are leading miserable lives in China, hiding from the officials. I failed to enter South Korea several times and was robbed of tens of million of won by intermediary organizations.”

Kim`s shaky voice was testament to how miserable North Korean defectors’ lives are in China. She asked for compassion, saying, “Mr. Lee sincerely understood and helped the defectors.”

Lee was indicted in May on charges of receiving 10 million won per person to forge Korean passports and of smuggling 60 or so North Korean defectors from China into the Republic of Korea. He was sentenced to 1 year in prison at his first trial.

Defectors` explanation in this case centers around the fact that they believe Lee did not do this to make money, considering the amount that is needed to bribe Chinese officials and to buy forged passports. They added that Lee even helped several people sneak into South Korea without receiving any money at all.

For these reasons, when support groups for North Korean defectors found out about Lee’s indictment, defectors in Korea and defector-related civil groups began submitting petitions to the court.

Over 30 defectors submitted petitions, which makes the case very rare, for most defectors wish to remain anonymous to the public.

Chun Ki-won, a missionary at Durihana Mission, said that he expects fair results from the judiciary, “as Lee was trying to help the defectors, which is a job that originally belongs to the government but that has been neglected.”

Jin-Kyun Kil leon@donga.com