North Korean defectors to testify at UK Parliament hearing

In this file photo, people stand in front of a giant statue of Kim Il Sung on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, North Korea, to pay respect to the late North Korean leader(AP)

Three North Korean defectors will tell members of the UK Parliament about the dire human rights situation in their home land.

Kim Young-soon graduated from Pyongyang University of Music and Dance and joined the army's ensemble, rising to the rank of lieutenant before being arrested because she had information about Kim Jong-il's personal life. She spent nine years in Yodok political prison and the 'guilt-by-association' culture meant that her parents and four children were also imprisoned. Her parents and eldest son died in the camp as a result of malnutrition and Kim defected in 2001.

Jo Jin-hye escaped from North Korea in 2006 at the age of 19 and in 2008 reached the United States. In 2012, she founded North Korea in the US (NKUS) and in February this year she testified before the US Congress on China's policy of forced repatriation of North Korean refugees.

Kim Joo-il is the Secretary-General of the UK North Korean Residents Society, Director of the Democratisation Broadcasting System, founder of Free NK, a newspaper covering North Korean issues, and Europe correspondent for Radio Free Asia's Korean service. He came to the UK as a refugee in 2007, having served in the North Korean army and risen to the rank of captain.

They will talk about their experiences and the human rights situation in North Korea at a hearing hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for North Korea on Tuesday.

The hearing is open to the public and is one of a series of events for North Korea Freedom Week, which started on Monday with a protest outside the North Korean embassy in London.

The aim of the week is to raise awareness of the situation in North Korea among Europeans.

The hearing at the Parliament will be chaired by Lord Alton of Liverpool, Chairman of the APPG for North Korea.

Other events during the week include a film screening and photography exhibition at Amnesty International UK and the launch of North Korean Refugees Solidarity Worldwide.

The first-ever Europe-wide North Korea Freedom Week is being supported by Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Its East Asia Team Leader, Benedict Rogers, said the week was an "exciting and valuable opportunity to raise public awareness about the appalling human rights crisis in North Korea".

"Earlier this year the UN Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate North Korea's human rights record, something CSW has advocated for more than five years, so finally the world's spotlight is beginning to focus on one of the world's most oppressed nations," he said.

"North Korea Freedom Week is an initiative led by North Korean refugees themselves, and we are delighted to support them in their campaign to increase attention on North Korea.

"The visit to London by several prominent North Korean defectors provides a rare opportunity for us to learn more about the world's most closed nation, and we hope many people will take part in these events, tell others, stand in solidarity and take action to promote human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, in North Korea."