12/14/2020, 16.31
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North Korean defector says human rights come first in nuclear talks with Kim

For Ji Seong-ho, who was elected to South Korea’s parliament, doing the opposite means building a "sand castle". He has confidence in Joe Biden's new US administration. With the northern economy in dire straits, the time is right to press Pyongyang.


Seoul (AsiaNews) – Future talks about North Korea’s nuclear programme will go nowhere without tacking the country’s human rights situation, this according to Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector who spoke to Yonhap.

Ji, who was elected in April to the South Korean parliament, lost a leg and arm in a train accident in 1996 when he passed out on a railway track due to hunger after attempting to steal coal. Millions of North Koreans died in the great famine of the mid-90s.

In 2006 he was able to defect to the South, where he headed a human rights activist group until winning a seat in South Korea’s National Assembly in last April general elections, under the banner of the Conservative Party, the main opposition to President Moon Jae-in administration.

For him, asking for the denuclearisation of North Korea without first obtaining respect for human rights is like building a “sand castle".

At present, he says he is convinced that the incoming US administration will not make this mistake. He is not alone; other observers believe President-elect Joe Biden will be tougher than Donald Trump over Pyongyang's violations.

Kim Jong-un’s regime is accused by the international community of serious human rights violations. As Ji notes, prison camps for political dissidents are still in operation in the North. His own father was tortured to death by North Korean authorities, and he does not want others to end up the same way.

The exile believes this is a good time to press on Kim. The North Korean economy is in dire straits, as Kim himself acknowledged when he spoke of the "failure" of his economic policy. To reverse the tide, the North Korean strongman announced new measures, but according to Ji, they will not allay the grievances of the population.

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