Monday 16 July 2018

North Korean defector hails ‘warmth and sincerity’ of Trump

The US president invited Ji Seong-ho to sit in the gallery with the first lady during his State of the Union address last month.

North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho (AP/Seongbin King)
North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho (AP/Seongbin King)

By Youkyung Lee

The North Korean defector singled out by Donald Trump as a living example of Pyongyang’s atrocities says the US president has set a milestone in international efforts to improve North Korea’s human rights record.

Mr Trump invited Ji Seong-ho to sit in the gallery with the first lady during his State of the Union address last month.

Legislators cheered as the president introduced Mr Ji, and the 35-year-old triumphantly waved the crutches he had used to escape North Korea after a train ran over his limbs.

Mr Trump later invited the North Korean defectors to meet him at the White House, and described them as witnesses “to the ominous nature” of the North Korean regime.

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Trump State of the Union

Mr Ji said the president’s gesture raised international awareness of their fight to escape the North, as well as grim situations facing other North Koreans.

“I have launched hundreds of campaigns and activities to let people know about the human rights situation in North Korea, but President Trump’s address has marked a milestone in North Korea’s human rights,” he said.

“When he gave me a hug, I felt the warmth and his sincerity toward North Korean human rights issues.”

Earlier on Tuesday, North Korea’s UN mission called Mr Ji “human scum” and Mr Trump’s invitation of the defector to the State of the Union address a “desperate attempt” to keep up “its ‘human rights’ racket” against the country.

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State Of Union Photo Gallery

Since the State of the Union address, the two Koreas have moved towards reconciliation, with Pyongyang sending a large group of athletes and cheerleaders to the Olympics in the South.

North Korea also sent leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who sat alongside dignitaries during the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.

She also attended a lunch with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and extended an invitation from her brother for Mr Moon to visit Pyongyang for a summit in the near future.

During her three-day visit, Ms Kim fascinated South Koreans with her relaxed manner and gentle smile, and was touted by global media for scoring a diplomatic gold.

But Mr Ji, now a South Korean citizen, said Ms Kim should have apologised to South Korean citizens and North Korean defectors living in the South.

“I thought she was too arrogant. She shouldn’t be walking around like that holding her head high. I wish we could get apologies from North Korea for the pains they caused to me and other defectors.”

Press Association

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