Rights activist-turned-lawmaker Rep. Ji Seong-ho of South Korea’s ruling People Power Party met with US Department of State officials on Thursday to discuss possible joint efforts in protecting the rights of North Korean defectors.
“I think US officials showed deep interest in South Korea’s actions to improve the rights of North Korean residents and defectors, and the possible steps that the US can take,” Ji, who defected to South Korea in 2006, told The Korea Herald.
“Now we have a momentum for more change and cooperation with the new administration in office (in South Korea), which is turning the focus again on North Korea’s human rights problems.”
He said that at the meeting, he talked about South Korea’s fresh approach to address North Korea human rights under the Yoon Suk Yeol administration, including the appointment of an ambassador-at-large on the human rights situation in North Korea and the disclosure of a previously classified report on North Korea’s human rights record.
He added that he urged more US and international efforts in stopping forced repatriation of North Korean defectors in China and elsewhere.
Ji, who is on the South Korean National Assembly’s labor committee, said the meeting was attended by officials at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor as well as officials working on North Korea sanctions policy.
The meeting, held behind closed doors, lasted for about an hour, he said.
Before returning to Seoul next week, Ji plans to meet with human rights activists in New York.
Ji is in Washington to attend the legislative track of the Summit for Democracy 2023 hosted by the House Democracy Partnership, as the sole representative of the South Korean National Assembly.