Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Defecting from hell

There are no people with physical deformities in North Korea because those that are born disabled are killed, according to a physician who escaped from the communist state.

Ri Kwang-chol, who fled to the South last year, said babies born with physical disabilities were killed in infancy in hospitals or in homes and were quickly buried.

Ri told members of the New Right Union, a collection of local activists and North Korean refugees, the practice is encouraged by the state as a way of purifying the masses and eliminating people who might be considered "different."

The group urged the South Korean government to change course away from "silent diplomacy" and immediately begin taking action to pressure the North to improve its human rights record.

The South Korean government has refused to join international condemnation of human rights abuses in the North out of concern that such a move could rattle ties with Pyongyang, which considers any criticism of its human rights as deeply offensive.

"The government should stop trying to avoid upsetting Kim Jong-il," said another defector, Kim Young-sun, 67, referring to the North Korean leader. "It should try to upset Kim Jong-il," she said, adding it would be the best way to change the North.

Kim Young-sun is a survivor of the North's Yodok prison camp, notorious for its forced labor and life-sentences for people charged with conspiring against the Kim Jong-il leadership.

Mun Hyon-ok said women from her hometown in the northern region of North Korea bordering China were taken by a ring of human traffickers and probably ended up in China.

"And there are women who are selling themselves for a handful of rice," she told the forum.

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