North Korean defectors gather to protest regime

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North Korean defectors gather to protest regime

About 700 people who plan to protest the Kim Jong-un regime will attend a convention of North Korean defectors on April 29 at Myungsung Presbyterian Church in eastern Seoul.

Of the 700 attendees, 90 percent are North Korean defectors living in South Korea, the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom, said Ahn, who was a North Korean military officer when he defected to the South in 1979. His family died in the Yodok prison camp.

Ahn Chan-il, the head of the World Institute for North Korea Studies, said the event, “The First World Congress for North Korean Defectors,” will be held at the church’s Gloria Center.

Other participants will be Suzanne Scholte, an American human rights activist who has fought for North Korean defectors for decades, and Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

North Korean defectors have pushed for a convention since 2013, Ahn said.

“The provocations of Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship have put North Korean people’s lives in danger,” Ahn said, explaining that the convention will be a stepping stone to achieve cooperation among North Korean defectors all over the world in the hopes of achieving change in North Korea.

He added that an announcement will be made at the event to form a “World Committee of North Korean Defectors,” saying that there will be religious leaders and representatives from South Korean organizations at the event.

There are currently more than 29,000 North Korean defectors who have come to South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, including 1,276 defectors who came just last year.

The annual number of North Korean defectors has decreased since 2011, when Kim Jong-un assumed office, whereas the number of senior officials seeking asylum in the South has gone up.

BY KIM SO-HEE [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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