News / Asia

North Korean Prison Camp Survivors Testify Before US Congressional Panel

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, second right, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, second left, during a meeting an a military garrison, outside Ulan-Ude, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, second right, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, second left, during a meeting an a military garrison, outside Ulan-Ude, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011
Cindy Saine

Two survivors of North Korean prison camps testified before a U.S. congressional panel about the abuse they and their families endured for decades.  The two women defectors say they speak for for as many as 200,000 prisoners being held in forced labor camps in North Korea.

The chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, Republican Chris Smith, welcomed two women who had come to shed light on the fate of political prisoners in North Korea.

"Mrs. Kim Young Soon and Mrs. Kim Hye Sook, who both have survived the extreme deprivations of the North Korean prison camps, have traveled all the way from South Korea to share their experiences with our subcommittee," said Smith.

Smith said the two survivors' testimony is especially valuable because North Korea is so closed to the outside world that it often evades scrutiny.

Kim Hye Sook told the panel how North Korean security forces came to her home in 1975 when she was 13-years-old, and dragged her and her family to a prison camp, where she spent the next 28 years.

"I cannot even begin to describe how many people suffered and died because of starvation in the prison camp, and how many people were killed without reason for not listening to authorities or not showing enough repentance through public execution by firing squad," she said.

Kim Hye Sook said one of the rules of the camp was that inmates were not allowed to know why they are imprisoned.  She said all of the adults were forced to work in coal mines from sunup to sundown, and were responsible for preparing their own food, often only a gruel made from grass or tree bark.  She said she was plagued with hunger from the day she arrived at the camp, and longed to eat a bowl of white rice.  She contracted black lung disease in the coal mines, and lost her husband and brother in the camp.  When she was released and went to China, she said, she was a victim of human and sexual trafficking, and was sold several times.  She now lives in South Korea.

The other witness, Kim Young Soon, also delivered an emotional and moving testimony of her years in a prison camp.

"In conclusion, I would just like to say that in the political prison camps in North Korea, it is a place where the prisoners will eat anything that flies, crawls or grows in the fields," she said.

Kim Young Soon was a young dancer when she says she was taken to the prison camp for knowing about one of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's mistresses.  From her original family of eight people, only two survived, including herself.  Kim Young Soon now lives in South Korea and is Vice President of the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea.

Another witness at the hearing was Suzanne Scholte of the Defense Forum Foundation.  She said former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made the mistake of focusing on North Korea's nuclear weapons program and not enough on the human rights in the communist country.  She called on President Barack Obama to speak out on Pyongyang's human rights abuses.

"I think we should say, 'We want to give North Korea as much aid as they need, so that the people are not starving, but we want to be able to see that it is consumed.'  I think we should be talking about the fact that we want to help the people, we want to improve conditions there.  We would like to see the International Red Cross be able to go to the political prison camps," said Scholte.

Scholte said North Korea's leaders have been very effective in manipulating the Six Party Talks on their country's nuclear program.  She called on the United States and other countries to reach out directly to the North Korean people through radio broadcasts and to speak openly about the human rights violations and prison camps in the country.  

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid