A North Korean defector has spoken about the horrific human right violations she says she witnessed in the state’s prison camps — including starved prisoners fed to dogs.
Speaking at the UN Monday, Ji Hyeon A described how she was forced to have an abortion when she was three months pregnant. She pleaded with the world to take action.
In 1998, Ji’s family decided to flee North Korea but were caught in China and immediately repatriated.
Her sister was sold to an older man, her mother was beaten and their father went missing. Ji tried to escape to China again but was repatriated and sent to a North Korean political prison.
Years later, after she eventually escaped to South Korea, Ji spoke about her horrifying experiences at the camps.
She said North Korean women who got pregnant in China were forced to have abortions when they were returned to North Korea.
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“Pregnant women were forced to harsh labour all day,” she said. “Because North Korea does not allow mixed ethnicities, they make women who become pregnant in China to miscarry by forcing them to harsh labour.”
“At night, we heard pregnant mothers screaming and babies died without ever being able to see their mothers,” she said.
At one detention centre, she said everyone was subject to harsh labour and “not many people made it out alive.”
“Meals were so lacking that we ate raw locusts, discarded cabbage leaves and skinned frogs and rats,” she said.
Ji said the prisoners who died from dehydration were covered in plastic wrap and were then fed to dogs that belonged to the guards.
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The third time Ji was caught in China and sent back to North Korea, she was three months pregnant. She said she was forced to have an abortion without medication at a local police station.
“My first child passed away without ever seeing the world,” she said.“Without any time for me to apologize.”
In 2007, she finally was able to escape to South Korea and since has been reunited with her mother, brother and sister. She still does not know where her father is.
Ji cited the recent story of the North Korean soldier who fled to South Korea and was shot five times as he dashed across the border. She said his escape represents a “dash toward freedom, which is a dream of 25 million North Koreans.”
She urged the Chinese government to stop sending North Koreans back to the regime, saying authorities know they are sending Koreans back to a horrific fate.
Conditions ‘as terrible, or even worse’ than Nazi camps
Ji’s statement came a day before a report released Tuesday calling on the international community to investigate crimes against humanity committed in North Korea political prisons.
The report, released by the War Crimes Committee of the International Bar Association, detailed graphic testimony from North Korea defectors, including a former political prison guard and prison camp survivors.
It included accounts of prisoners being tortured or killed because of their religion, forced to have abortions and infanticide. One account described a prisoner’s newborn being fed to guard dogs.
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Former International Criminal Court judge Thomas Buergenthal, who was one of the report’s authors and a child survivor of Auschwitz, told the Washington Post, “conditions in the Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and in my long professional career in the human rights field.”
The report found there was enough evidence to charge leader Kim Jong Un with crimes against humanity.
“There is not a comparable situation anywhere in the world, past or present,” Navi Pillay, another of the report’s authors told the Washington Post.
“This is really an atrocity at the maximum level, where the whole population is subject to intimidation.”
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