Transcript of statement today by North Korean defector Kim Joo-il, presented at press conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva, organized by UN Watch in cooperation with the group North Korean Gulag.
I would like to first of all thank the head of UN Watch and you, everyone here, for preparing this press conference today.
While I would love to discuss a lot of problems in North Korea, I will only mention three things today.
I would like to mention three things vis-à-vis the imminent presidency of North Korea of the Conference on Disarmament. I would like to mention, first, the reactions of North Koreans who defected from North Korea who live outside. Second, I would mention the reaction of North Korean residents, at least as far as I know. And finally, I would like to mention how North Korea is treating its own citizens, its problems concerning famine, and human rights violations.
When we, North Koreans who defected, learned about the fact that North Korea has been designated as the president of the Conference on Disarmament, we were very perplexed.
If you think about the fact that there was UN Security Council Resolution 1874, on June 17, 2009, denouncing the second nuclear test of North Korea, despite the presidency lasting only for one month, and it being selected through alphabetical order, this is not acceptable.
As an international organization, the UN is suppose to criticize constantly North Korea as a gross human right violator and we, North Korean defectors, were perplexed as to the true position of the United Nations. As a North Korean citizen, I would like to call upon the United Nations to clarify its true position.
Because whenever there has been a situation in the international community, more or less confirming the legitimacy of the North Korean regime, the North Korean regime has been using it as propaganda for manipulating its citizens.
Think about it: The international community has been making efforts to communicate its criticism of the North Korean regime to the citizens and we are going through changes of consciousness in North Korea nowadays. However, if we show this international gesture — seemingly confirming the legitimacy of the North Korean regime — the North Korean government is going to use it as a way of propaganda and manipulation, reinforcing idolatry of the leader of North Korea, and perpetuating the state of slaves of ideology of North Korean citizens.
As for my personal story, between 2005 and 2008, since I defected from North Korea, I had been sending financial aid to my family in North Korea through an international broker. However, since 2008, I stopped sending money because I realized that even though it was money that I had personally sent to my family, my parents had a tendency of believing that it was thanks to the help of Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader.
This is because they had a tendency of being complacent with the reality in North Korea, of always thinking about their gratitude towards the leader. So if you can see, as there is this kind of tendency of North Korean citizens, it is obvious that they are also going to think this time: “Oh, this is the good international reputation of North Korea, recognized by the international community. The presidency of North Korea means that our regime is doing really well,” and so forth.
In conclusion, I would say that even if the presidency of North Korea of the Conference on Disarmament remains only for one hour — not even a week or a month — it is symbolic. The support of the international community is going to push North Korean residents even more into the hell that they are already living in right now.
I am very confused and disappointed. I cannot believe that such a gross violator of human rights such as North Korea can be chosen as the president of this Conference on Disarmament — even if the choice has been made by alphabetical order.
For example, the North Korean citizens, they live for Kim Jong-il, their life is all about him. To take an example, in 1994, upon the death of Kim Il-sung (the father of Kim Jong-il), North Korean residents cried for 15 days, 24 hours a day.
It was not even forced by the government; it was voluntary. Because they really thought that Kim Il-sung was equivalent to the status of God.
It is the same for Kim Jong-il, and they think it will be the end of the regime, the end of North Korea, and the end of the world, when Kim Jong-il dies. Thus if North Korea is chosen as the president of the Conference on Disarmament, it will send a signal to the North Korean citizens that the international community is confirming this rogue state.
I believe that we really must stop this comedy of giving presidency of the Conference on Disarmament to such a rogue state.
On March 14, 2010, I saw an article in the British newspaper Daily Telegraph about the fact that Kim Jong-il had 4 billion dollars in a Swiss bank and he had just moved the money to a Luxembourg-based bank. This is an enormous amount of money, especially in the context of North Korea.
If you consider the price of rice in the market, and if you suppose that the annual consumption of rice is 5 million tons, with that money North Korean residents could be fed for two years. The same money could feed North Koreans on corn for three years. The same money could provide a salary to a North Korean adult for four years.
This enormous amount of money was made through the sales of missiles and transmitting nuclear technology and producing opium, etc. I am really angry that this amount of money is used for the personal interests of Kim Jong-il, instead of helping North Korean citizens.
I had two main reasons for defecting from North Korea. First, whereas throughout my childhood I had been learning that North Korea was the best country in the world, and so forth, after I joined the military I saw a bitter reality. Even in the military, people were starving and a lot of people left the army, and this brought me to my identity crisis.
Second, there was an incident where my nephew starved to death. When my nephew was 4 years old, my sister did not have any more food for feeding him. While he was already suffering from malnutrition, the other baby did not have anything to eat for four days, he was starving.
So my sister went around the neighborhood to borrow rice from others, but other residents could not lend rice to her either, because if they did it means they have to starve the next day. Therefore, she found corn instead of rice from “Hagyo” — i.e., Chinese people who reside in North Korea. And she had this bowl of dry corn, and she was cooking.
And, meanwhile she went outside to take care of other chores, and the 4-year-old nephew who was starving went to look for dry corn and ate it. And, when you eat a lot of dry corn, you tend to drink lots of water and then he drank lots of water and then because of stomach inflation, all of a sudden the baby died.
And this bitter reality disillusioned me about the North Korean regime. And when I read this article in the British newspaper, I found it egregious that this North Korean leader, despite the reality of its citizens, is hiding money elsewhere outside North Korea.
Our various problems include starvation, human right violations in North Korea, but there is one thing that I would really like to emphasize: the elimination of political prisoners camps. Because I find that it is in the center of dictatorship as well as of human rights problems in North Korea.
And in my opinion, Kim Jong-il is the unprecedented, worst dictator of the world that I have ever seen — even if you consider dictators from other countries such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and so forth. I would like to urge the international community to pay attention to the problem of political prisoners’ camps. Thank you.