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Poverty is main cause of human rights violation, defectors testify

Poverty is main cause of human rights violation, defectors testify

Posted March. 18, 2014 23:50,   


North Korean defectors say in unison that improving North Korean human rights starts from improving the living conditions for the North Korean people. Park Ki-choon, a 49-year-old North Korean defector, said, “People commit a crime by doing things that the nation prohibits because of poverty, and that is the beginning of the infringement of human rights,” emphasizing that “only when people’s livelihood is improved, will the infringement of human rights be reduced.” “No matter how much the outside world tells (North Korea) to resolve the human rights issues, the North Koran leadership will never listen to it.”

Due to poverty, an increasing number of people choose to smuggle goods or defect from the communist nation. And the North Korean leadership, as a result, intensifies its punishment and violates human rights more seriously. This vicious cycle is what many North Korean people face in reality.

Seo Soo-yeon, a 45-year-old North Korean defector from Yanggang-do near North Korea’s border with China, was an ordinary homemaker until the mid- and late 1990s when the North Korean economic crisis known as “Arduous March” began. When it got too difficult to get food for living due to the suspension of the government’s food rationing, she packed valuables such as copper and went to the bank of the Amnok River. She could gain some soap and shoes from the Chinese merchants she met there. She started to smuggle more and more products, and later she bought 30-50 kilograms of metals at a time to smuggle into China. Seo said, “All the people only dependent on the nation during the ‘Arduous March’ starved to death… Though (I) was afraid of crackdowns, making a living was the most important.”

Hong Eun-gyeong, a 45-year-old North Korean defector, said that “hunger is what saddens people the most” and she came to South Korea to “earn a living.” When she was working in a mine in Musan, a region in the northern province of North Korea, she was detained in Chongjin, a city in the same province, for one week on the charge of selling pollack that she bought in Chongjin. However, she continued doing it, coming back and forth between Musan and Chongjin because she was the only bread earner in her family.

Yoon Soo-jin, a 31-year-old North Korean defector, emphasized the need for food aid to the North Korean people by saying, “Though some people say there would be no effect, I personally believe continuous food aid to North Korea will prove to be effective for sure.”

* Names of people referred to in the article are false to protect their identities.