UK’s House of Lords committee hears of brutal violations
Kim Young-soon spent nine years in the camps simply because “I was a friend of Kim Jong-il’s former wife,” she told the all-party group for North Korea at the House of Lords.
Kim broke down as she talked about Pyongyang’s notorious policy of rounding up the entire family of political prisoners.
“Almost no one survives the camps,” she said. “I lost my parents and my son. My heart still breaks when I think of them.”
Kim, who was a dancer in the People’s Army Ensemble with the rank of lieutenant, spoke of seeing “piles of bodies every day” and of camp inmates “picking corn kernels out of cattle dung” to avoid starvation.
She escaped in 2001 and reached South Korea two years later. In 2010, Reuters news agency reported that Kim was a childhood friend of Sung Hye-rim, a film star with whom Kim Jong-il had an affair and later married. Sung died in exile in Russia in 2002.
It was to keep the affair secret that Kim Young-soon was sent to the camps, Reuters reported.
Chairing yesterday’s meeting, the Catholic rights campaigner Lord Alton of Liverpool said 300,000 people remained in the camps and accused Pyongyang of “egregious violations of human rights.”
He praised the “sheer bravery” of people like Kim who escaped and made their way by arduous routes through China, and often Mongolia or Laos, to safety in the South.
Several speakers emphasised that pressure from British and other European governments and media could make a difference in North Korea since European nations are not regarded as “the enemy”, as are South Korea, Japan and the United States.
The hearing was part of North Korea Freedom Week in Europe, which is aimed at raising the consciousness of Europeans about North Korea.
The Freedom Week sees the launch at the House of Lords of North Korea Refugees Solidarity Worldwide on Thursday and will end with demonstrations in Berlin on Saturday.
Originally published at UCAnews on 9 October 2013. Used with permission. All other rights reserved.
If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.
Here are some numbers:
- 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
- Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
- Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
- Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
- Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
- We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)
As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.
Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!