North Korea Freedom Week 2008
Visiting North Korea Defector Delegation and Special VIP Guests
(Confirmed as of 4-24-08)
1. Leadership of North Korean Defector Based Groups
2. Special Witnesses
3. Musical Performers: Pyongyang Musical Mission Troupe
4. Special VIP Guests for NKFW 2008
1. Leadership of North Korea Defector Groups
KIM Seung Min: Founder and Director of Free North Korea Free Radio, the defector’s broadcasting program providing news and information to North Korea, South Korea and China. Kim attended both elementary and high school in Pyongyang before serving in the North Korean Army. He escaped from North Korea to China in 1996 but was arrested and repatriated. While traveling from Onseong to Pyongyang to face punishment for leaving the country without government permission, he jumped from a moving train to escape to China again and eventually made his way to South Korea. He worked as a laborer at a coal factory in Yenji, China, until his uncle in South Korea helped him to escape to South Korea. He attended Yonsei University and Graduate School at Joong Ang University where he received a Master of Arts. After serving in leadership roles in the North Korean defector groups, he founded “Free North Korea Radio” which was available on the internet beginning April 2004, and began broadcasting on shortwave in December 2005 with regular daily broadcasting beginning in April 2006. (Born 5/6/62 in Jangang Do, North Korea)
KANG Su-Jin: Founder and Representative of the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights, the only organization focused specifically on increasing awareness of the horrors facing North Korean women in China, the role of women in democratizing North Korea, empowering and encouraging North Korean women who have resettled in South Korea, and building cooperation with other organizations. Kang was a member of the elites from Pyongyang and was the Manager of Supply from 1991-1998 of the Bonghwasan Hotel in Pyongyang, the biggest hotel in Pyongyang which catered to high ranking party and army officials and was used for special events. When food distribution stopped in Pyongyang in 1996, the regime announced that all hotels had to operate on their own and conditions became very difficult for the workers. Kang visited China and saw how much better off the people were and decided to defect to South Korea. (Born 10/23/66 in Pyongyang, North Korea)
KIM Young-Il: President and Founder of People for Successful Korean Reunification (P-SCORE), an organization founded in the Fall of 2006, specifically to ensure the successful reunification of the Koreas would not adversely affect the South Korean economy. To that end, PSCORE, chiefly composed of young people, studies other reunification models, informs about the human rights conditions in North Korea, and prepares and educates young North Koreans to be ready to help lead a reunified Korea. Because Kim was not born into an elite family in North Korea, he was not allowed to attend university and was destined to become a coal miner after serving his mandatory military service. While in the military he witnessed many people, including soldiers, dying of starvation. His own uncle died of starvation and his cousins were left to wander the streets. His family made the decision to defect to China in August of 1996 instead of starving to death in North Korea. They survived there for five years bribing the police not to turn them in until they safely defected to South Korean in January 2001. Kim received a BA in Chinese from Hankook University of Foreign Studies in August 2006. (Born 4/10/78 in Hamheung, North Korea)
PARK Sang Hak, a long-time activist among the North Korean defectors in South Korea, currently serves as President of the Fight for Free North Korea, which is organizing regular balloon launches into North Korea of pamphlets which describe true history about the Korean War and the true situation about human rights conditions. The launches also include US $1 bills which can feed a family of 4 in North Korea for a week. He has previously served as the Representative of the Democracy Network Against the North Korean Gulag and a Vice Chairman of the Exile Committee for North Korean Democracy. A member of the elites from Pyongyang, Park is a graduate of Kim Cheak Industrial University and worked at a Propaganda Unit in Pyongyang until 1999. His father was a North Korean spy in charge of collecting information about South Korea. While on a spy mission in Japan, Park’s father sent a message to his family to defect when he realized that South Korea was much better off than North Korea. The family escaped to South Korea in March 2000. (Born 2/18/68)
Pastor EOM Myong-Heui is the Assistant Pastor of the New Pyongyang Full Gospel Church a church for North Korean Defectors associated with Yoido Full Gospel Church (Seoul). Eom was a math and biology teacher in Moosan, North Korea, until she married and became a full-time housewife. She was known as a loyal party member and received a medal of honor in 1996 for her loyalty to the regime. During the famine she started a business selling specialty foods to support her family and worked with a Korean Chinese partner who was a businessman/Christian missionary associated with Yoido Church. She became a very successful businesswoman traveling around the country freely to buy and sell specialty foods. Discussing religion with her Christian business partner led her to become a Christian. When her partner was arrested and severely tortured he revealed to the DPRK authorities that Eom was a Christian, and she was soon arrested. She was tortured in a detention center in her hometown of Moosan and denied her faith. She could not understand why the authorities were so concerned about whether she was a Christian or not instead of her business activities. Because of her past loyalty to the regime, the authorities eventually released her. She decided to escape to China where she was arrested twice and told “if we arrest you again, we will kill you.” She eventually made it to South Korea after incredible trials and hardships traveling on her own through Burma and Thailand. She was held in a detention center in Thailand for 6 months where she started a Bible Study. She finally made it to South Korea in 2002. After two months in Hanawon, she went to Yoido Church and citing her conversion to Christianity by a Yoido missionary, she presented herself there stating: “I am a member of your church.”
Pastor KANG Chul Ho is the lead pastor of Peaceful Unification Church, which is affiliated with the Methodist Church and their congregation is 100% North Korean defectors and has a range of ages that attend their service. Pastor Kang supports himself by working in a noodle factory. His church has made it their mission to tear down the huge statue of Kim Il-Sung and plant their church at that site when North Korea is free. Kang was a member of the elite class and his grandfather was an educator. His grandfather believed that they were teaching wrong history in the North Korean schools, and so he criticized Kim Il Sung. As a result, the family was ostracized and cut off from their status as elites; Kang’s father was very upset at how unfair this was and approached the National Security Bureau to petition them not to change their status. The NSB refused his request, so Kang's father threatened to burn down the NSB building. So, the NSB arrested and forced Kang and his mother to watch his father be publicly executed. His brother fortunately escaped seeing this. His mother committed suicide shortly after this and Kang fled to China. A Chinese missionary sheltered and took care of him and told him since God had saved him for a reason, he should serve God. When he made it to South Korea, he never forgot what she had said, so he decided to become a Pastor.
2. Special Witnesses:
PARK Mi Rae Park spent most of her childhood in Pyongyang, receiving a middle school degree in Pyongyang schools and 10 years of education at the Pyongyang Sports College, where she was inducted in 1992. After graduating from Pyongyang Sports College, her dream was to become a track and field teacher, but she was not high enough on the classification system so the state determined she would have a labor job. She moved to her hometown, Onseong, where she married a childhood friend. Then, in 2004, starvation drove her to cross the Tumen River into China. One week later, she was captured by Chinese authorities and forcibly repatriated. For three months, she endured hardship in a forced labor camp. She again tried to defect in August of 2004 but ended up in the hands of sex traffickers. Throughout her time in northern China, she was violated and assaulted by Chinese gangsters, even having one of the veins in her wrist slit. She suffered unspeakable hardship. It was not until May of 2007, she was admitted to South Korea. (Born 4/25/77 in Pyongyang)
AN Jin Hee received a middle school education in her hometown. From February 23 to March 2, 1998, she received a government issued passport to travel to China and was able to visit China a second time June 5-13, 1998. During her travels to China, she was able to contact an underground church and became a Christian. When she returned to the DPRK, her involvement with the Chinese underground church was revealed, and the Bible she had hidden in her house was confiscated. She was arrested and tried for being connected with South Korean churches and sentenced to 15 years in prison. She endured unbearable hardship and through all sorts of bribes, she was able to escape although she had wasted away to almost nothing. In 2003, she crossed the Tumen for the first time, but within two days she was captured and forcibly repatriated. Again, she was put in a political prison camp and endured four more months of hardship. She escaped once more and in January of 2005 and made it to South Korea (Born 4/20/66 in North Hamheung Province)
HAN Song Hwa: While attempting to find food for her family of eight in China, Han and her husband were arrested and forced to undergo extreme hardship. Although she was pregnant, she was severely beaten and when she was released, she was forced to leave her husband behind. She was in so much pain, she could only walk with the use of a cane and shortly after that she heard her husband’s had died. When starvation became too extreme, she decided to take her two daughters (the only remaining family she had) and defect to China. However, because she had two daughters, it was difficult to find someone who would take her in. She was sold to a Korean man and was forced to do hard labor. After some time, she and her daughters attempted to escape by running into the South Korean Embassy, but were caught, arrested and sent to prison. They were imprisoned in China for six months and then repatriated back to North Korea. Again, they escaped and in 2003 met Pastor Philip Buck, who helped them find protection with the UNHCR in October, 2006, until they were accepted for asylum in the United States in March 2008.
CHO Jin Hae: Born in North Hamkyung province, Cho lived with 8 other family members. As everyone in her village suffered from starvation, Cho was forced to find sustenance from anything from mountain animals to tree bark. She was unable to attend school, as it was her responsibility to find food for her family. Hunger was so widespread that one by one, her family members starved to death until only her mother and younger sister remained. The three of them decided to defect to China. For ten years, not only was she tormented by other Chinese children, but the Korean man her family came to live with drank and often lashed out at them in drunken rages. During this time, she became a Christian. In 2002, her family escaped from the Chinese man and hid in a nearby mountainside. However, they were captured by Chinese authorities and repatriated back to North Korea, where they endured enormous amounts of torture and hardship. After two months of suffering, she escaped again to China and met Pastor Philip Buck. She became active with him in helping other North Korea refugees and because of this was arrested with him and endured extreme hardship for 15 months in a Chinese prison. Pastor Buck was able to find enough money to post her bail and get her out of China and she was accepted for asylum in the United States in March 2008.
CHO, Eun Hae: Cho was carried on her Mother’s back to escape from North Korea to China when she was only six years old. Although she is 16, she has never once set foot inside of a school. Due to lack of nutrition, her hair had turned yellow and she was just skin and bones. Four times she was repatriated back to North Korea, but was accepted for asylum in the United States in March 2008.
3. Musical Performers: Pyongyang Musical Mission Troupe (all North Korean defectors)
Mah, Young Ae (Leader, Musician) After North Korean authorities discovered her involvement with the underground Chinese church, Ma and her son, Hyo Sung, were arrested and interrogated by North Korea police in 1998. She decided that she could no longer live in Pyongyang and in February of 1999, she defected to China. She lived in hiding until December 6, 1999 until her status was revealed by another North Korean refugee. She was then arrested and interrogated by the Shin Hwa Ga Police. The interrogation was so severe that her collar bone was broken, her skull cracked and her neck was so severely misaligned, she is still undergoing treatment. She was rescued 30 minutes before being repatriated back to North Korea. Currently, she is a representative for North Korean refugees in the US and the leader of the Pyongyang Musical Group.
Kim, Cheol Woong (Pianist) a former member of the Pyongyang Philharmonic Orchestra , is currently the director of the Pyongyang Musical Group. He defected to China in 2001 but was repatriated after being caught in 2002. He endured unspeakable hardship in a North Korean political prison camp but was able to escape. He was accepted by South Korea on January 2003.
Byun, Sang Ho (Singer, Sound Choreographer) In 1999, Byun was captured by North Korean authorities and severely interrogated. He was able to escape his interrogators and defect to China. After living in hiding for some time, he crossed over three countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand) and endured unbearable hardship for almost four months. Finally in August 2000, he was accepted as a refugee in South Korea. His father is a Korean War POW and is still alive and suffering in a North Korean prison. Currently, he is living in the US and is the executive director of the North Korean Refugee Mission Church.
Kang, Yun Soo (Dancer) Before defecting to China in 1998, Kang was a professor at the Ham Kyung Chungjin Culture University. In China, she was sexually trafficked and although she was able to escape, she has left behind a 7 year old daughter. She was accepted as refugee in South Korea in 2003 and is currently a dancer for the Pyongyang Musical Group.
Lee, Young Hee (Dancer) Lee defected in 1999 from North Hamkyung province and lived as a refugee in China. She was arrested twice and because of this, endured extreme hardship. In December 1999, she escaped her captors and on May 19, 2002, she made it to South Korea. She is currently actively involved with the Pyongyang Musical Group.
Han, Ok Jun (Singer) After defecting in 1998, Han endured extreme hardship not only because she was sexually trafficked, but because she witnessed her father die after being beaten by Chinese police. Her family was captured while attempting to run into the ROK Embassy. During their second attempt, she and the rest of her family were able to make it safely into the ROK Embassy. On January 26, 2003, all were able to make it to South Korea. She is currently actively involved with the Pyongyang Musical Group.
Kim, Chul (Singer) defected to China in July of 2001 and was arrested twice during his time in China. He also broke a section of his vertebrae and ankle while trying to escape. He was accepted in South Korea in July of 2004. He is currently actively involved with the Pyongyang Musical Group.
Kim, Tae Rim (Dancer) Kim is the daughter of a South Korean abductee and after defecting to China 1998, she was accepted by South Korea in October of 2000. She is currently the dance choreographer for the Pyongyang Musical Group.
Shim, Mi Sook (Singer, MC) After defecting in 1999, Shim lived in hiding until July 2000, when she was accepted to South Korea. However in 2003, when she went to visit a relative in China, she was arrested and interrogated. She was not released until a $30,000 bail was posted. She is currently actively involved with the Pyongyang Musical Group.
Kim, Yun Hee (Dancer) After defecting in 2002, she suffered hardship in China until she arrived in South Korea April 2003.
4. Special VIP Guests for NKFW 2008
Pastor Phillip Buck (“John Yoon”)- the winner of the 2007 Civil Courage Award by the Trane Foundation for showing “steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk,” Buck was an American citizen jailed for one and one-half years in China for helping North Korean refugees. He sheltered and fed thousands of North Koreans who had fled to China and helped over 100 reach freedom in South Korea. He changed his name to Phillip Buck from John Yoon, when he realized the Chinese were trying to capture him under the name of John Yoon. The Chinese succeeded in capturing him on May 9, 2005, while he was in the midst of an operation to help get 30 more North Koreans to freedom in South Korea and he was kept in prison in China until his release in August 2006.
Steve Kim, a New York businessman, was arrested in China in 2003 for helping North Korea refugees fleeing persecution and starvation in North Korea. He was sentenced to five years in prison under Article 318. Before he was arrested he had rescued 100 refugees through a program he started in 2001 called Schindler’s Mission. He was released one year early due to receiving sentence reduction points for doing forced labor in prison. He now leads 318 Partners Mission to continue his work and is the subject of both an upcoming book and documentary being produced by Hot Genre, Inc. about his experiences, the plight of the North Korean people and the refugees in China.
Teruaki Masumoto is the Secretary General of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea (AFVKN). His own sister, Rumiko, was one of the citizens Kim Jong-il’s regime admitted kidnapping. Masumoto has worked with the Japanese Rescue Movement to continue to raise awareness of the abduction issue and has been able to prove the international scope of the issue: collecting evidence and interviewing family members of other abductees to find that in addition to hundreds of Japanese citizens being abducted under Kim Jong-il’s order, there are at least 12 countries whose citizens were abducted.
Professor Yoichi Shimada is a Professor of International Politics at Fukui Prefectural University and Vice Chairman of the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea (NARKN). A graduate of Kyoto University, he testified before the House International Relations Committee on the abduction issue in April 2006. He was raised in Osaka Prefecture, Japan.
Osamu Eya of Japan is a famous journalist from Japan who specializes in terrorism and military affairs.