- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ji Seong-ho, a North Korea defector who suffered starvation, torture and lost a leg to the brutal regime, stood to thunderous applause as he defiantly held up his old wooden crutches in the House chamber Tuesday night.

It was a gesture of defiance of North Korea’s communist government and one of the most emotional moments of President Trump’s first State of the Union address.

Mr. Trump called Mr. Ji’s story “a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom” as he called for resolve against North Korea and its pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to threaten the U.S. and its allies.

“Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position,” the president said.

Mr. Trump also recognized the parents of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student arrest during a visit to North Korea and sentenced to 15 years hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster. He was returned to the U.S. 17 months in a vegetative state and died a short time later.

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, wept as the stood to applause in the chamber.

“You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all,” Mr. Trump said. “Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve”

The president then told the story of how Mr. Ji as a boy in 1996 tried to steal coal from a railroad car to barter for scraps of food, fell asleep on the tracks and lost his leg when run over by a train.

“He then endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain. His brother and sister gave what little food they had to help him recover and ate dirt themselves — permanently stunting their own growth,” the president said.

“Later, he was tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a brief visit to China. His tormentors wanted to know if he had met any Christians. He had — and he resolved to be free,” Mr. Trump added.

Mr. Trump told of how Mr. Ji traveled “thousands of miles” on crutches into and across China to gain his freedom, and how his father was caught trying to follow him and was tortured to death.

“Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears the most — the truth,” Mr. Trump said. “He has a new leg, but Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come. Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all.”

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