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N. Korean Prison Camp Survivors Speak at UN Meeting

Two survivors of the North Korean prison camps spoke at the UN Commission on Human Rights, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and at the EU

N. Korean Prison Camp Survivors Speak at UN Meeting

Two survivors of the North Korean prison camps spoke at the UN Commission on Human Rights, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and at the EU, a UK-based a Christian human rights charity reported Monday.

The two survivors, both Christians, were imprisoned at the Yodok Political Prison Camp and suffered “appalling abuses,” according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

“In a political prison camp in North Korea, one must forget that he or she is a human being,” said 49-year-old Tae Jin Kim, initially defected to China in 1986 to escape North Korea. “I had to do many things to survive. I carefully watched a dog so that I could steal its food. I ate snakes, frogs, rats and anything that could be a source of nutrition.”

As reported by CSW, 16 months after becoming Christian, Kim was repatriated by the Chinese authorities and a Bible was discovered in his belongings.

“He suffered severe torture and interrogation in the eight months following his return, to the extent that he swallowed a nail, preferring to undergo an operation than stay in the cell,” CSW reported. “He was subsequently imprisoned without trial in Yodok Political Prison Camp (No 15) where he experienced barbarous treatment, including being beaten with burning wood. He was forced to carry out hard labor on minimal food intake and beaten unconscious when too weak to carry out his tasks.”

After surviving the imprisonment and eventually defecting again, Kim arrived in South Korea in June 2001. He now serves as the Director of Missionary Works at NKGulag and Chairman of the Special Committee for North Korean Gulag Dismantlement. He is also currently studying at Chongshin University, a theological school in South Korea.

“My prayer is that the situation in North Korea will be improved by your prayers, partnership and advocacy in both national and international arenas,” Kim said.

The second survivor to speak at the Mar. 31 UN parallel meeting was 67-year-old Young Soon Kim. Young, who was arrested by the North Korean security forces after the disappearance of her husband, was imprisoned in Yodok Political Prison Camp (No 15) along with her four children solely as a punishment for their association with him, CSW reported.

According to CSW, Young spent eight years in the camp, from 1970 to 1978, enduring conditions of forced labor, regular physical and verbal abuse, ideological indoctrination and severe degradation. She described the camp as “a living hell where prisoners were treated as less than animals.”

Young’s father, mother and youngest son had passed away in the camp. Her second son was executed after an unsuccessful attempt to escape from North Korea and her eldest son become disabled as a result of his imprisonment. She has never seen her husband since his disappearance.

Young eventually fled North Korea and arrived in South Korea in November 2003. She is now a member of the Operations Committee of NKGulag, a human rights agency representing survivors of the political prison camps.

“I had to go through the tremendous pain of losing family members, which was much more painful than being killed myself,” Young said, as reported by CSW. “The pain and suffering I have described is still shared by many people in North Korea, even today.”

In commenting on the testimonies given by the prison camp survivors, Stuart Windsor, CSW’s National Director, said: “It is vital the international community hears the truth about conditions inside the prison camps of North Korea.

“These two survivors need to be heard by the world as they share the horrors of the conditions they endured,” Windsor continued. “The UNCHR, the FCO and the EU must do all they can to ensure the end of these political prison camps and all the human suffering that happens in them.”

Along with the hearing from the prison camp survivors, the first-ever video footage of public executions in North Korea was shown at the UN parallel meeting. In addition, a list of more than 600 individuals who have disappeared into the North Korean gulag was revealed.

Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and MP Bill Rammell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with responsibility for North Korea and global human rights issues, also spoke at the meeting.

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