- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002

TOKYO Three North Koreans who fled oppression and famine in their homeland said yesterday that international food aid is not reaching starving individuals and the government is resorting to elaborate schemes to fool U.N. monitors.
The defectors, who are in Tokyo to give testimony at an international conference on human rights in North Korea, said millions of dollars worth of food aid is being stockpiled in mountain military complexes and being used to feed soldiers and the ruling elite.
"Aid hasn't gotten to people in need and it's being redirected to the North Korean military and the people in power," said Lee Young Kuk, a former bodyguard of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
"I know about this because I worked in the security network. It's all a farce," he said during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
Another defector, Lee Jae Kun a native of South Korea who was trained as a North Korean spy after being abducted by Pyongyang agents said security officials order villagers to load carts with bags of rice to show U.N. aid monitors.
When the observers leave, the rice is taken away, he said.
"The U.N. is shown lists of what food went where and to whom, but that's all fake," he said.
The defectors, who now live in South Korea, gave a detailed picture of misery in the North: rivers flowing with the bodies of those who starved to death, labor camps where live burials and flayings are common, an atmosphere of paranoia in which relatives denounce each other to the authorities.
Lee Young Kuk said he was sent to the North's harshest political prisoner camp, Yodok, after he was tricked into visiting Pyongyang's embassy in Beijing thinking it was the South Korean mission during his first defection attempt.
One inmate accused of stealing salt was tied to a vehicle and dragged for 21/2 miles at high speeds and "became de-skinned," he said in written testimony released yesterday. "We were forced to touch his deformed body, which was tied to a stake to display as an example."
In his comments to reporters he said: "I have watched so many deaths in North Korea I almost lost the concept of human dignity."
The defectors said the flight to freedom contains other horrors.
Jung Choon Hwa said the border between North Korea and China where defectors flee first before seeking a route to South Korea or elsewhere is full of human traffickers who sell women into prostitution.
Rapes and beatings are common, she said. But the traffickers are often the only people to turn to as guides.
"The North Korean women must go to the human traffickers because we don't know how to cross the border," she said. "We have to rely on them."
Despite their brutal experiences, the defectors had mixed feelings about President Bush's appraisal of Pyongyang as forming part of an "axis of evil."
"Bush is stepping ahead without looking around," said Lee Jae Kun.

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