- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The North Koreans who have been fleeing to embassies and consulates in China have been literally running for their lives. Over the weekend, two North Koreans successfully scaled a high fence around the Canadian Embassy in Beijing and sought refuge in the diplomatic compound. Over the past two months, at least 28 North Koreans have successfully entered foreign embassies in Beijing and been permitted to leave for South Korea. The defectors' desperation to leave, in addition to their public testimonies regarding life behind the Korean iron curtain, is a source of humiliation for Pyongyang.
Yesterday, three North Koreans who had entered the U.S. consulate in the Chinese city of Shenyang last Wednesday were allowed to travel to South Korea via Singapore. A North Korean family, including a young child, that had sought asylum in the Japanese consulate in Shenyang that same day were much less fortunate. Chinese soldiers entered the consulate without Japan's permission and arrested the asylum seekers, an action Japan said is a violation of the Vienna Convention. Japan has been calling on Beijing to return the North Koreans to its custody.
The accounts of defectors who recently visited The Washington Times make clear that asylum seekers could face execution if returned to North Korea. Lee Young-kook, who was a bodyguard to none other than North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, described his own personal horror to editors and reporters.
In a North Korean town near China, Mr. Lee caught a glimpse of the outside world through a black market radio that could receive South Korean radio broadcasts. After escaping to China, he was apprehended in 1994 and dispatched back to North Korea, drugged and packed into a crate like an animal. In North Korea, he was tortured and put into a labor/death camp. Thanks to a family member's personal connection with the North Korean dictator, Mr. Lee was spared the fate of execution that often falls on other "deserters" and their family. He was freed from the camp in January 1999. The following year he succeeded in escaping to South Korea.
Kim Suong-min, another defector from the North Korean military said, "When you live in North Korea you are taught Kim Jong-il is god, but now, since my conversion [to Christianity], I realize Kim Jong-il is not god. He is the devil."
Littering Mr. Kim's legacy are the two or three million North Koreans who have died at the hands of the dictator. "There's no place on earth like North Korea," noted Daryl Plunk, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation. "No regime is killing people the way the North Korean regime is killing people today."
It is little wonder North Koreans are risking everything in their exodus for freedom.


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