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[Op-Ed] N. Korean Defector’s Outcry

Posted May. 02, 2009 18:23,   


An Asian woman in her 50s pulled up her skirt to show her thighs on a chair at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Thursday. This shocked people attending the news conference. Bang Mi-sun defected from North Korea in a desperate bid to feed her starving children in 2002 after her husband starved to death. She was an actress at Gwangsan Propaganda Troupe, but showed dreadful signs of torture left on her legs, which otherwise would have been beautiful. She said she was arrested by Chinese police and repatriated to the North. “I can hardly walk now because I ran 100 rounds in the soccer stadium at the detention camp, and was beaten so badly,” she said.

When Bang told of the horrific human rights abuses North Korean female defectors suffer in North Korea and China, many at the news conference burst into tears. She was sold to a Chinese human trafficker and was forced to marry several times. She was repatriated to the North, where she suffered horrendous treatment, but managed to make her way to South Korea in 2004. “If I had a chance to meet U.S. President Barack Obama, I will urge him to put an end to the suffering of female North Koreans who are traded like animals. The world must know what is happening in China and North Korea,” she said, urging the international community to help stop the madness.

Many North Korean female defectors are often traded like slaves by human traffickers and forced to become sexual slaves. Many of them are repatriated to the North and die from torture. As a member of the United Nations, China is obliged to follow an international convention on refugees. Beijing, however, is turning a deaf ear to international calls on giving North Korean escapees refugee status and stopping their repatriation. South Korea must also reflect on how strongly it urges China to change its policy of repatriating defectors to the North.

Numerous female North Korean women have crossed the border due to starvation, only to fall victim to human traffickers. North Korea is primarily responsible for this tragedy. Pro-North Korea liberals in the South must also feel responsibility for not criticizing the North’s human rights. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate hearing Thursday, “North Korea is digging its own grave, and Washington has no plan to offer economic aid.” The Kim Jong Il government seeks to maintain its “dollar-raising scheme” through the threat of nuclear weapons and missiles. If this continues, however, the North, not to mention its long-suffering people, will collapse.

Editorial Writer Gwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)