Tortured North Korean Christians to give Testimonies in London

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) announced that a press conference will be held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in Central London on Monday 4th April, featuring the testimonies of two survivors of North Korean political prison camps and a conversation with Bill Rammell MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

The two North Koreans are both Christians. They were imprisoned at the Yodok Political Prison Camp and suffered appalling abuses.

The 49-year-old ex-prisoner, Kim Tae Jin, fled to China in 1986 from the inequality and lack of freedom in North Korea. He became a Christian in China. After 16 months, when he was repatriated by the Chinese authorities, a Bible was discovered in his belongings. Therefore, the North Korean authorities tortured him severely in a prison cell for eight months.

He even swallowed a nail so that he could be sent to the hospital for an operation in an attempt to leave the cell. Later, he was imprisoned without trial in Yodok Political Prison Camp. Again, he experienced inhumane treatment such as being beaten with burning wood and forced to carry out hard labour on minimal food intake. Even when he appeared too weak to carry out his tasks, he was beaten unconscious.

Despite all the physical suffering and spiritual trauma, he survived the imprisonment and arrived in South Korea in June 2001. Currently, he is Director of Missionary Works at NKGulag and Chairman of the Special Committee for North Korean Gulag Dismantlement. He is also studying at Chongshin University, a theological school in South Korea. NKGulag is a human rights agency representing survivors of political prison camps.

Another North Korean, Kim Young Soon, 67, was arrested by the North Korean security forces simply because of her association with her husband who was persecuted. Her parents and her four children were all detained. From 1970-78, she endured conditions of forced labour, regular physical and verbal abuse, ideological indoctrination and severe degradation. She describes the camp as "a living hell where prisoners were treated as less than animals".

Eventually, she was able to flee North Korea and arrived in South Korea in November 2003. She is now a member of the Operations Committee of NKGulag.

On 31st March, both the North Koreans and Bill Rammell MP, with responsibility for North Korea and global human rights issues, are due to speak at a parallel meeting at the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva.

According to CSW, the first ever video footage of public executions in North Korea will be shown during the UNCHR. In addition, a list of more than 600 individuals who have disappeared into the North Korean gulag will be revealed.

Stuart Windsor, CSW’s National Director, who is also at the UNCHR said, "North Korea is widely held to have one of the worst human rights record in the world and these two survivors have a unique and painful story to tell. It is our privilege to work with them at the UN, in the EU and here in the UK so they can tell us the truth about life and death in North Korea. Our hope is that their testimonies will encourage the international community to do more to put pressure on the North Koreans to improve their human rights record."

The aim of this press conference is to highlight the deprived human rights situation in North Korea so as to press the international community to address this particularly serious concern and take the necessary action.

CSW has been standing in the frontline in defending human right in North Korea. Over the last four years, CSW has carried out extensive research on North Korea. They conducted in-depth interviews with over 60 individuals who have been imprisoned or those who have been responsible for imprisonment and torture conducted at the Chinese border, South East Asia and all across the world. Medical examination, psychiatric analysis and expert medical advice have been used to verify the evidence.

With these real testimonies, CSW is committed to addressing the threat to human rights or more specifically religious freedom by the North Korean authorities. They are lobbying the North Korean authorities to reform their severe policies of repression towards religious freedom.

In 2003, CSW has successfully lobbied at the UN for the introduction of the first ever resolution on North Korea and then for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur in 2004.

The press conference will be held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), King Charles Street, London, SW1A at 12:30pm on Monday. To apply for accreditation on a first come first served basis, contact Tom Soper at the FCO on tom.soper@fco.gov.uk or ring 020 7008 3076.

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