North Korean defectors testify in U.S. CongressWASHINGTON - Two female North Korean defectors who said they were incarcerated in North Korea’s notorious political prison camps appealed to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to help end human rights abuses in the secretive communist nation.
Amid cautious international efforts to engage North Korea, U.S. lawmakers invited two women to share their stories of suffering in a bid to put a greater priority on improving human rights in the communist nation.
“There was a time when I saw the bodies of people who were killed by firing squad who were rolled up in straw mats and carried away in carts, and said to myself, ‘Even dogs will not die so pitifully,’?” Kim Hye-sook said during a hearing at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.
The hearing was apparently aimed at reminding lawmakers here of human rights abuses in North Korea as Washington is seeking to cut spending. Under the 2004 North Korean Human Rights Act, the U.S. government has been offering financial support for refugees leaving the nation as well as human rights groups, including radio broadcasters.
“Please end the existence of such a society and make it into a place where humans can live as people,” Kim said. She said she was incarcerated for 28 years in political prison Camp No. 18 in Bukchang County, South Pyongan Province.
She said she was taken to the hellish site at the age of 13 along with her parents because her grandfather had defected to South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.
“We had to work 16 to 18 hours every day without rest or holidays, and for food, our family of seven was provided only around 10 pounds of corn per month,” she said.
Inmates ate scraps of food, she said, and guards threatened to execute anyone who broke rules - including a ban on prisoners even knowing why they were jailed.
Kim said that many people including her family members died at Camp No. 18, where she said “human lives are worth less than those of flies.”
Kim eventually found refuge in South Korea after fleeing to China, where she said she suffered sex trafficking.
Another defector, Kim Young-soon, who said she is now over 70, claimed that she was taken to Yoduk political prison camp in 1970, just because she came to know the relationship between leader Kim Jong-il and Sung Hae-rim, Kim’s mistress at that time. She said she was a friend of Sung Hae-rim.
Kim said that three of her sons, a daughter and her parents died of starvation and that a firing squad publicly executed another son who tried to flee from North Korea. She said that her husband was sent to another camp in 1970 and that she did not know his fate.
“I wasted nine years of the prime of my life in that hellhole of a place where even animals will turn their faces away,” said Kim.
She urged U.S. lawmakers to press for Kim, one of the world’s most reclusive leaders, to be brought before the International Criminal Court.
“As long as he exists, people’s suffering will continue,” she said.
“Please save the 23 million people in North Korea who are living a life of misery not unlike what I suffered,” she said in an emotional tone.
Representative Donald M. Payne, Democrat of New Jersey, said the defectors’ testimony, based on their first-hand experience, was important because little is known about the situation in the North among most Americans.
한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
“성혜림 동창이라고 9년간 수용소 수감”
탈북 2인, 미 하원 청문회 증언
“성혜림(김정일의 사실상 첫 부인)과 여고·대학 동창이었어요. 어느 날 혜림이한테 ‘5호 댁(김정일이 거처하는 특별 저택)으로 간다’는 이야기를 들었어요. 그 뒤 김정일의 사생활을 알고, 이를 발설할 수 있다는 이유만으로 요덕 정치범수용소에 갇혀 9년 동안 지옥에서 피눈물을 흘려야 했습니다.”
탈북자 김영순(74)씨의 목소리는 떨렸다. “연좌제로 8명의 가족이 모두 수용소로 보내졌고, 막내아들은 23세 때 탈출을 시도하다 붙잡혀 총살 당했다”고 말할 때는 건물이 울릴 정도의 큰 소리로 울부짖었다.
성혜림20일 오후(현지시간) 미 하원 외교위 인권소위의 북한 청문회에 탈북자 2명이 처음으로 출석해 북한 인권 실태를 생생하게 증언했다. 김씨는 “새벽 3시30분 기상해 해가 질 때까지 강제노역을 시켰다”며 “뽕나무에서 떨어져 쇄골이 부러졌는데도 예외가 없었다”고 말했다. 그는 이어 “일이 끝나면 밤늦게까지 ‘사상투쟁회의’를 열었고, 이때 족쇄를 차고 끌려간 사람은 아무도 살아 돌아오지 못했다”고 증언했다.
또 다른 탈북자 김혜숙(50)씨는 “할아버지가 6·25 전쟁 때 월남했다는 이유로 18호 관리소에 28년간 수감됐다”며 “전기가 흐르는 철조망 속에서 강냉이와 풀을 섞은 죽 한 끼로 하루를 보내 쌀밥 한번 먹는 게 유일한 소원이었다”고 말했다. 그는 “관리소 직원들이 ‘아가리(입) 벌려’라고 폭언한 뒤 입 안에 침을 뱉고 삼키게 하는 고문도 했다”고 증언했다. 김씨는 자신이 탈북해 중국에서 체류할 때 네 차례나 인신매매를 당한 사실도 고발했다.
두 탈북자는 “지옥 같은 땅에서 피눈물 흘리는 2300만 북한 형제들을 구해 달라”며 “전 세계는 북한을 지원하지 말고 김정일 정권을 붕괴시켜야 한다”고 말했다.
미국 디펜스재단 수전 솔티(Suzanne Scholte) 대표는 “북한 인권 문제에 대해 국제사회가 지속적으로 개입해야 한다”며 “버락 오바마 행정부는 북핵보다 북한 인권 개선을 최우선 정책으로 내세워야 한다”고 말했다.