A group of North Korean defectors converged Monday to call on the Obama administration to do more to help them topple dictator Kim Jong-un’s oppressive regime.
Scholte introduced some two dozen defectors at a National Press Club event to kick off the 12th annual North Korea Freedom Week. Their efforts to get information in and out of North Korea—through radio broadcasts, balloon drops, and other means—have led the country into the information age, ignited capitalism that is curbing starvation, and helped some 26,000 persons escape, Scholte said.
The defectors include a variety of organization leaders, prison camp survivors, and eyewitnesses to human trafficking, drug smuggling, propaganda dissemination, and illegal weapons trading. They will participate in various events throughout the week, including providing testimony to Congress on Wednesday, and at the United Nations in New York on Thursday. Twice this week the defectors will gather for events outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington, which has refused to treat North Koreans as refugees.
Scholte said defectors have proven highly effective at influencing the regime’s activities, but they don’t have the resources they need to do their jobs. The State Department has ended North Korea programs or severely cut funding over the last five years.
Despite that, he said, defectors refuse to quit: “The North Korean regime continues to threaten the people in this room, but they will not be intimidated.”