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A defector testifies about N. Korean human rights atrocities

A defector testifies about N. Korean human rights atrocities

Posted August. 31, 2023 08:09,   

Updated August. 31, 2023 08:09


“I feared my hands might be slashed, but I gritted my teeth, holding onto the belief in a world of freedom as I made my daring journey across the Duman River,” reminisced Kim Il-hyuk, a defector from North Korea, recalling his escape in 2011 by crossing the river while relying solely on a single rope. Kim drew attention with his bold assertion aimed at the dictatorial regime led by Kim Jong Un in the North, declaring that “dictatorships cannot endure.”

Speaking at the Korea Global Forum held at the Westin Josun Seoul, Kim vividly recounted his harrowing experience of fleeing North Korea. “Even upon reaching China successfully, the risk of being apprehended loomed large. Capture would mean either facing execution or enduring a lifetime of forced labor within political prison camps,” Kim emphasized. “To evade detection, I feigned that I could not speak and concealed myself in a locker during checkpoint crossings.”

Kim further shared, “My father was apprehended for using a Chinese-made mobile phone to communicate. He was subsequently sent to a forced labor camp, and my family had to visit him monthly to prevent starvation.” He also recounted the grim reality within the labor camp, where many succumbed to starvation, with some resorting to consuming dried seaweed to the point of rupturing their stomachs due to its swelling.

Recounting the tragic fate of his aunt, Kim revealed that she suffered brutal beatings and severe torture, eventually losing her life in a political prison camp for not reporting Kim’s defection to the authorities. “The people of North Korea deserve a life of dignity, much like our own lives,” Kim passionately asserted, urging the Korean society to pay heed to the dire human rights situation in North Korea.

The Korea Global Forum centered on “North Korea’s Nuclear Threats, Human Rights, and Unification.” While the conference’s name was altered to “Korean Peninsula Global Peace Forum” during the former Moon Jae-in administration, the term ‘peace’ was omitted under the current administration. Vice Minister Moon Seung-hyun of the Unification Ministry, delivering the keynote address on behalf of Minister Kim Young-ho, emphasized that the Yoon Suk Yeol administration considers North Korea’s human rights dilemma as significant as its nuclear threats.

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com