A North Korean defector, now the leader of an association that has sent over 60 tons of rice bottles to the North Korean people, along with financial support and waterproof Bibles, is asking why U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to praise Kim Jong Un despite his cruelty.
Kim Yong Hwa, chairman of the North Korean Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea, has now carried out 58 innovative rice bottle launches since April 2016, sending some 60 tons of rice through water pathways that reach hungry and suffering North Koreans.
Kim told The Christian Post through the aid of an interpreter in a Wednesday interview that even Trump, as the U.S. president, has "limited information" and that it would be "very difficult for him to the understand the reality of the North Korean" people, who he said are suffering daily under the Kim Jong Un regime.
Commenting on Tuesday's summit between Trump and the North Korean leader in Singapore, he said that there is no reason to hope that the latter would actually carry out promises to completely denuclearize his country.
Kim noted it would be "pretty easy" for the North Korean regime to hide nuclear materials, no matter what it promises to Trump and the rest of the world.
As for the human rights issues, the North Korean defector questioned both Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in for seeking to relax pressure on North Korea.
Kim argued that the North Korean regime had been in a "very difficult situation internally" since November because of the U.N. economic sanctions, which he suggested could have eventually led to unrest against Kim Jong Un's regime and potentially the liberation of the North Korean people.
The recent warming of relations has "gone in the opposite direction," he said.
The defector criticized Trump's praises for Kim Jong Un and saying that he "loves his people," asking why the U.S. president had to make such "great remarks" and compromise with the North Korean leader.
"I don't get it," the defector said, pointing out that Kim Jong Un is the state leader of concentration camps where hundreds of thousands of people are imprisoned, including many Christians.
"I don't know what kind of person Trump is now," Kim said, asking again why the U.S. president has decided to "recognize, acknowledge, and promote the cruelest leader in human history."
As someone who has backed Trump in other cases, he conveyed his hopes that the U.S. president does not "send such a disappointing message to the North Korean people."
As for the innovative rice bottle launches, the chairman of the NK Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea told CP that he used to serve in the North Korean military in the 1970s.
During that time, there would be occasions, such as floods, where streams of water would carry with them items from South Korea. This gave him the idea after escaping and establishing himself in the South to study the streams of water and start sending bottles of food and information that reach the people in the North.
He said that his association has helped thousands of North Korean defectors settle in South Korean society and other countries, but it also continues to focus on people who remain in North Korea.
While his organization was first involved in balloon launch efforts, which would send medication and food items over the border, he decided that the rice bottles would be a more effective means of reaching the people, especially those in inland provinces who are even more isolated from the outside world.
Kim says that he knows the rice bottles reach North Korea, since during launches, maritime police track their activities on the radar. He said that his organization is able to identify, through some unofficial sources, that 97 percent of the bottles reach their destination, and are often collected by fishermen and fishing boats.
The bottles contain several items, including rice, which North Koreans can eat or sell on the market in order to support their families. U.S. dollar bills are also inserted inside, which is a valuable commodity in North Korea. The bottles can bring as much value as what a North Korean worker earns for 50 days, or close to two months.
What is more, they also come with USB sticks that contain New Testament Bibles, hymns, Korean television dramas, medicine, and information about the outside world.
The Gospel is sent not only digitally through the USB files, but some of the bottles also have attached physical bibles in water-proof packaging that the people in the North can pick up.
Kim explained that psalms and hymns are also included, with the hopes that the people will start singing them, which would spread the message from person to person more effectively.
The Korean dramas and entertainment videos, on the other hand, are meant to show the people what the outside world actually looks like, and serve as a revelation against the state-run propaganda messages in the North.
The defector shared that "what has been heartbreaking" for him to hear is stories of families making rice porridge out of the rice in the bottles they have collected, in order to "inflate the servings" and make the most out of the available food.
He said that oftentimes the rice is supplied by other North Korean defectors who have managed to escape, but remember the hunger they faced back home. He said that churches in different parts of South Korea, and other individuals, also help provide the resources.
"We are having a hard time. It is not easy," Kim admitted of the frequency of the bottle launches, which is twice a month.
"[But] we know that people are waiting at that time, because they know the flow is coming from the South. We cannot disappoint them, we want to deliver to these people," he added.
Suzanne Scholte, a human rights activist who is the president of the Defense Forum Foundation and chair of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, separately told CP that there is "nothing more powerful than North Koreans living in freedom in South Korea communicating to North Koreans living under the enslavement of the Kim dictatorship."
Scholte, who helped organize the 14th annual North Korea Freedom Week in May, which highlighted the efforts of Kim Yong Hwa and other activists, said that the "most important way we can help the suffering people of North Korea is to support the defectors' work from rice bottle launches to balloon launches to radio broadcasting."
"All these methods are critical because to reach the people of North Korea you must employ all these techniques because the regime works so aggressively to keep them isolated from the outside world," she added.
As for why North Koreans like Kim Yong Hwa risk their personal safety, financial security and reputation in these efforts, she offered:
"It is because they love their homeland and have never forgotten their beloved brothers and sisters who are suffering and they know personally how effective and important this work is. It is an affirmation of what we have always believed: the Truth Will Set Them Free."
At the latest rice bottle launch on Thursday, Kim Yong Hwa shared that 700 kilograms, or 1,543 pounds of rice, "hope and love" were sent to the people of North Korea, along with 250 Bibles.