North Korean defector hung upside down and/or water-boarded for ten unbearable months

North Korean defector Jung Gwang Il was accused of collaborating with a South Korean while on business in China, and arrested as he returned home to his wife and two young daughters.

Detained without trial, he was tortured daily by electrocution, and put in the “pigeon position” where a prisoner’s hands and legs are tied before being hung from the ceiling.

For ten unbearable months, Jung Gwang Il was hung upside down or waterboarded until he confessed to being a spy. He was then forced into hard labor at North Korea’s notorious Yodok detention camp for another three years.

“In that first ten months, I dropped from 75kg (165 lbs) to 36kg (79 lbs). I tried to hold out for my family as I knew they would be punished if I confessed,” he said.

But after almost a year he could bear it no longer. His torturers promptly shipped him to Yodok, a grim camp about 65 miles north of Pyongyang.

While others died due to the hard labor, Mr Jung fought to survive. “We willed each other not to die, to believe that we might make it out,” he said of his fellow inmates. Three years later he was released, and casually told he had been found ‘not guilty’.

By that time his home had been destroyed and his family hounded into hiding. They were finally reunited in China after he swam across the Tumen border river to escape.

[The Telegraph]

Trump-Kim Jong-un summit set for Singapore on 12 June

US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June.

The pair had previously exchanged insults and threats. A breakthrough came after landmark talks between North and South Korea.

No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader. The White House said the release of three Americans was a gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit, which Mr Trump earlier said he thought would be a “big success”.

“I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful,” he said.

The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme – over which Mr Trump and Mr Kim furiously sparred in 2017. The US wants Pyongyang to give up its weapons programme completely and irreversibly.

But analysts caution that Mr Kim is unlikely to easily abandon nuclear weapons that he has pushed so hard to obtain, and that “denuclearisation” means something quite different to both sides.

[BBC]

Trump greets 3 American hostages freed by North Korea

Three American prisoners freed from North Korea arrived in the US  early Thursday to a personal welcome from President Trump, who traveled to an air base in the middle of the night to meet them.

Waving their hands and flashing peace signs, the freed prisoners — Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song — descended the stairs of their plane, flanked by the president and senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had flown to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, to secure their release.

Their return to the United States removed a delicate obstacle as the president prepares to sit down with the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, for a landmark nuclear summit meeting on June 12 in Singapore.

But as Mr. Trump basked in the glow of floodlights and TV cameras, he indicated that the most difficult part of the negotiations, which include persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, still lies ahead.

Eminent release of detained Americans by North Korea?

According to media reports, North Korea has released three US detainees in the country, which meets some of President Donald Trump demands for Pyongyang to demonstrate sincerity before the historic meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Kim Dong-cheol, Kim Sang-deok, and Kim Hak-seong — three US citizens detained in North Korea for years — have been released from a suspected labor camp and given health treatment and ideological education in Pyongyang, according to the Financial Times.

“We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month. We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the US-North Korea summit or he can send an envoy to take them back to the US before the summit,” said Choi Sung-ryong, who campaigns for the release of detainees in North Korea.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly spoke with Kim about the detainees during the pair’s secretive meeting in April.

If North Korea has released the detainees and is preparing to release them to the US, it represents another in a series of concessions Pyongyang has agreed to make.

[Business Insider]

North Korean defectors urge President Trump to raise human rights with Kim Jong-un

For ten unbearable months, Jung Gwang Il was hung upside down or waterboarded until he confessed to being a spy. He was then forced into hard labor at North Korea’s notorious Yodok detention camp for another three years.

“In that first ten months, I dropped from 75kg to 36kg,” he said. “In camp 15 I worked from 4am to 8pm every day, either logging or farming maize. We were given daily three lumps of corn mixed with beans, and slept on the floors of tiny cells crammed with 40 prisoners.”

Jung survived and escaped to South Korea in 2004. On Saturday he, and other North Korean defectors, expressed sorrow that their homeland’s ongoing dire human rights situation was ignored in an unprecedented summit between Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Jung plans to appeal personally to US President Donald Trump to raise human rights violations at his own summit with Kim in May or June.  Jung, who represents the Association of North Korean Political Victims and their Families, once smuggled flashdrives of a Trump speech denouncing North Korean “tyranny” into the reclusive state. The president thanked him for doing so when the two men met in the White House in February.

A second meeting is slated for May. Mr Jung will give the president the names of ten North Korean prisoners, urging him to ask Kim for their release.

[The Telegraph]

China’s continued efforts to apprehend North Korean defectors

China’s continued forced deportation of North Korean defectors, who face imprisonment or even death upon return to the repressive state, has received muted international criticism, as diplomatic efforts have intensified to negotiate a denuclearization deal with Pyongyang.

In the first three months of 2018, China apprehended at least 41 undocumented North Korean migrants, who crossed the Sino-Korean border, and more than 100 others between July 2016 and December 2017, according to the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

The Chinese crackdown on these defectors, which has intensified in recent years, could get worse as relations improve between Beijing and Pyongyang, following Kim Jong Un’s recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“If relations between China and North Korea are good, North Korean authorities will be able to put pressure on the issue of North Korean defectors,” said Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector and analyst with the World Institute of North Korean studies.

Xi is likely to demonstrate greater solidarity on border security enforcement, with little regard for humanitarian concerns. “He’s using these defectors to say to Pyongyang that we are still your friend, we are committed to working with you, and we don’t want these people either,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

Robertson says China’s forced deportation policy is in violation of a 1951 United Nations convention, which Beijing signed, recognizing the right of asylum for a people fleeing persecution.

[VoA]

Missionaries at the border spread Christianity to North Koreans

To the North Koreans gathered beneath a crucifix in an apartment in this northeastern Chinese border region, the 69-year-old Korean-Chinese woman is known as “mom.” She feeds them, gives them a place to stay and, on occasion, money.

Such border missionaries provide their North Korean visitors with room and board, and those escaping with places to hide. In return, they ask them to memorize the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed and other prayers. Some of the most trusted converts return home to North Korea and covertly share what they’ve learned, sometimes carrying Bibles.

It’s almost impossible to determine what happens when those North Koreans return home to evangelize. People involved in Bible distribution, secret prayer services and underground church networks are imprisoned or executed, according to activists and defectors.

Along the North Korean border, dozens of such missionaries are engaged in work that puts them and their North Korean converts in danger. Most are South Koreans, but others, like this 69-year-old woman, are ethnic Koreans whose families have lived in China for generations.

In recent years, 10 such front-line missionaries and pastors have died mysteriously, according to the Rev. Kim Kyou Ho, head of the Seoul-based Chosen People Network, a Christian group that runs a memorial hall in the South Korean capital for the victims. North Korea is suspected in all those deaths.

Hundreds of other missionaries have been imprisoned or expelled by China, which bans foreigners from proselytizing.

[AP]

Experiences of a 15-year-old defector in a North Korean labor camp

Charles Ryu said he’s one of only 275 North Korean defectors living in the United States.

With an easy smile and calm voice … Ryu shares how he managed to escape not once, but twice from the most repressive regime in the world.

Ryu was born in 1994 to a Chinese father, who abandoned Ryu at age 5, and North Korean mother, who died of starvation when Ryu was 11.

When he was 14, Ryu and his stepbrother escaped North Korea. They bribed border guards, swam across a river and met Ryu’s father in a taxi in China.

But Ryu’s joy was temporary. He was captured by Chinese police and was kept in a Chinese jail for two weeks before being sent back to North Korea. Upon reentering his home country, Ryu was interrogated for months by the North Korean government.

Fifteen-year-old Ryu was then sent to a labor camp where he was given 150 kernels of rice to fuel 12 hours of work every day. One morning, Ryu was so overcome by starvation that he ate rice from dry vomit he found on a roadside.

After nine months, Ryu couldn’t stand or even lift an arm. While others have to work until they die, Ryu was released after nine months because of his young age, physical weakness and relatively insignificant crime of trying to unite with his father.  Continued

North Korean defector describes life at home through cartoons

37-year-old cartoonist Choi Sung-guk explains, “In North Korea, I worked at an animation company, making local versions of The Lion King, Titanic, etc. …I was under surveillance for copying and distributing South Korean movies in the North when I decided to flee in 2010.

“I actually sent out my family first – my mother, sister and my nephew – to China because I was worried. However, after they left, I was arrested and sent to a detention center for six months. I manage to flee the country myself after that detention period was over.

“My trip to South Korea was short and easy. I fled to China, then Laos and then to Thailand before arriving in South Korea. All in 15 days.

“I started working as a program developer and web designer after arriving here [in South Korea]. But I was always interested in comics and cartoons. What I saw here was really boring, so I took up working at a broadcasting network, as a radio jockey and also a journalist and that’s when I started to understand the South Korean society.

“I also realized the cultural differences between the two Koreas and how people had different attitudes towards unification.

“And that’s why I started my webtoon three years ago and help towards reducing the cultural gap. Through my art work, I want to teach people the differences and the similarities we have. I also want to dispel the prejudice the youth has about unification. Sometimes, I will include historical stuff or academic information in order to get people to understand why it is that North and South Koreans are different.”

Female North Korean defectors detail stories of sexual violence

Female North Korean defectors have revealed the scale of abuse they have suffered inside the hermit kingdom in a shocking new report about the sexual violence perpetrated against women of every class, age and status. Accounts of prisoners having their vaginas forcibly searched for money by guards, rape victims being banished from cities and politicians exchanging houses for sexual favors detail a country in which women are routinely subjected to the most harrowing forms of abuse at all levels of society.

Following two years of research and interviews with more than 40 female exiles living in London and Seoul, conducted by the Korea Future Initiative, the report aims to shed light on the systemic rape culture of North Korea.

Interviewees hailing from geographically and socially diverse locations had all either personally experienced sexual violence; had known of a family member, friend, or colleague who had experienced sexual violence; or knew exiled countrywomen who were survivors.

One woman, who the report identifies as Ms Kim, was imprisoned in the Sinuiju labor camp. “The guards called girls into a room and ordered them to take off their clothes. There were girls who were fifteen or sixteen years old and they started to cry,” she said. The guards would put on rubber gloves and push their hands inside the girls’ vaginas to check if they had money. “The girls were still virgins and had not even started their menstrual cycles,” she said. “They would bleed and cry. The guards kept doing this even though they did not find any money.”

Ms Gil was similarly abused when she approached her town’s mayor to ask for somewhere to stay. “I was raped in his office and received a house in return. I could not tell anyone about what happened. What I want to say is this: In North Korea, a woman’s dream cannot be achieved without being raped or without selling her body.”

Even more financially secure women regularly found themselves at the sexual whim of their male bosses. Ms Wi explained how officials from the Ministry of Public Health abused her friend at a hospital in Pyongyang. “If they saw a young nurse or employee they admired, they would whisper in the ear of the chief hospital official who accompanied their inspection,” she said. “The woman would then be taken, sometimes forcibly, to a secluded room and abused by the officials. My friend told me that she was sedated on one occasion, but after that she stopped resisting. She could not tell me what the officials did to her.”

[Yahoo UK]