The Korea Herald


Top NK defector receives human rights award at parliament

By Jo He-rim

Published : Dec. 11, 2017 - 19:19

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Democratization in North Korea should be earned by North Koreans, just like the people in the South achieved economic development and democracy, said Thae Yong-ho, a high-profile North Korean defector, in his acceptance speech for a human rights award at the National Assembly on Monday. 

Thae Yong-ho. Yonhap Thae Yong-ho. Yonhap

The KNA Human Rights Forum and Korean Parliamentary League on International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for Asian Human Rights presented the Human Rights Activist award to Thae, the former deputy chief at the North Korean Embassy in London, in recognition of his works to report on the horrendous human rights conditions in North Korea.

“What the Kim Jong-un regime is truly afraid of is the growing interest toward South Korean culture among its people, and how its public sentiment is changing to be more independent from its authorities,” he said, while explaining how the South’s movies and drama series are popular among the people there.

“It is time for the South Korean government to send TV set-top boxes to the North.” 

The former Pyongyang ambassador defected to South Korea last year with his wife and two sons and is now a consultant at the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul. 

Thae referred to the North Korean defector who ran across the demarcation line in the truce village of Panmunjeom last month, and said that the strong desire manifested by the soldier reflects on the similar strong will of the North Koreans for reunification.

Giving the example of how Germany reunited with the hands of its own people breaking the Berlin Wall by themselves, he said the South Korean government should also persuade the neighboring country China to allow North Koreans to come freely to the South.

“It would be like how Germany persuaded Hungary to open borders to Austria, and millions of North Koreans would cross the Amnokgang and Dumangang Rivers to the South and the Military Demarcation Line will soon collapse, within a couple of days,” he said.

“When the minds meet with the South and the North for reunification in such ways, nothing can stop that movement -- and that is the kind of ‘peaceful’ reunification we all wish.”

Thae also pointed to how research on human rights of North Koreans is relatively behind that of policy research on reunification and called for more support on the topic. 

The head of the KNA Human Rights Forum, Rep. Hong Il-pyo, praised Thae’s efforts to raise North Korea’s human rights issue in the South.

“The former deputy chief of the embassy has given courage and hope for South Korea to address the issue of human rights in the North, and that is a big change he brought to us,” the three-term lawmaker said. “We wish for Thae to continue his works to inform people here of the need to promote the human rights in the communist regime.” 

The Human Rights Forum at the National Assembly has given the annual award to an individual or group to acknowledge their efforts to promote human rights in society since 2005. 

By Jo He-rim (