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

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid