Defectors want debate with scorned female duo

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Defectors want debate with scorned female duo


A group of North Korean defectors have demanded a debate with two women criticized in the press for their alleged sympathies toward the North Korean regime and expressed frustration that the two appeared to be blindly following the Communist state’s propaganda.

In an emotional press conference on Thursday at the National Assembly, three defectors who once languished in political gulags for as many as 27 years, and one defector who said his son is currently imprisoned in Hwasong labor camp for his Christian beliefs, blamed Hwang Sun and Shin Eun-mi for spreading inaccurate information about North Korea and said they wanted an opportunity to debate with the pair.

“There is no way to explain their recent behavior other than to consider them as out of their mind and as having been deceived by North Korean authorities to fall in line with Pyongyang,” said Kim Hye-sook, who introduced herself as a former prisoner who spent 27 years in a prison camp in South Pyongan Province, from 1975 to 2002.

“We are now here to make an official request that they meet with us for an open debate on the allegations that they are pro-North Korea, and so that we can lay bare the realities of what it means to live there.”

Among the four defectors at the briefing was Kang Chol-hwan, whose book is known to have inspired former U.S. President George W. Bush’s policy-making regarding North Korea.

Kang is an author of a book entitled “The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag,” in which Kang depicts his 10-year imprisonment at Yodok labor camp, from the time he was 9 to 19 and the gross human rights violations taking place in North Korea.

Impressed by Kang’s memoir, Bush recommended it to his top aides, and invited the author to the White House in 2005, raising Kang’s once-obscure status to the international stage.

Kang also voiced his anger Thursday at Hwang and Shin, going so far as to say they will be “punished by victimized souls” who perished in North Korea’s gulags.

The defectors’ demand for a debate came two days after Shin, an American citizen, and Hwang lashed out at conservative local media outlets for describing their activities as pro-North Korea.

Hwang, a former deputy spokeswoman of the now-defunct Democratic Labor Party, and Shin, a 53-year-old Korean-American, were thrust into the media spotlight over the weekend after local news organizations uncovered a video clip posted online of a talk show the two women hosted in November, during which the pair supposedly made remarks that painted the North Korean regime in a positive light.

BY KANG JIN-KYU jkkang2@joongang.co.kr



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