A Hearing was held this week in the Palace of Westminster and was addressed by two North Koreans who explained to parliamentarians how they had risked their lives to leave the country. The witnesses are pictuired with Lord Alton of Liverpool and Fiona Bruce MP (Member of Parliament for Congleton), Chairman and Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, and Alice Choi of the North Korean Human Rights Database Centre – which holds many of the testimonies of the 25,000 North Koreans now living in South Korea.
On November 28th the All Party Group was taking evidence from two North Korean escapees, Dr.Heung-kwang Kim and Young il Kim. The Hearing was preceded by a private briefing for MPs and Peers which was addressed by a representative of the North Korean Human Rights Database Centre.
Dr.Kim said that he had been a university professor in Hamheung teaching electronic engineering. He is the author of “North Korea’s Future in 10 Years.” He decided to try and leave North Korea after he grew disillusioned with the economic system and said that his salary was insufficient to feed himself and his family and that “the State was indifferent to our lack of food – and I was part of the professional classes. In many respects we were treated worst of all.” He said that In terms of their standing and apparent value to the country and his colleagues were “in the same category as beggars and prostitutes.” He urged China and western governments to do far more to encourage reform in North Korea.
Young il Kim escaped from North Korea in 200 and arrived in South Korea the following year. He had made his first attempt to escape while serving as a 19-year-old soldier in the North Korean army – and described how he rode on the top of a train for 16 hours avoiding detection by the authorities. He helped secure false papers for his parents and two brothers and they crossed the River Tumen into China. He said that he had felt worn down by the “constant self criticism and mutual criticism sessions required by the State.” Having spent four years working in China – and growing alarmed by the number of repatriations to North Korea – he travelled to South Korea and today is the Executive Director of PSCORE (People for successful Korean Reunification). He said he yearned for the day when the north and south would be reunified and urged democratic nations to “emphasise human rights as much as they have emphasised security questions.”