탈북민이 바라보는 2018 남북정상회담
Last November, Panmunjom, the site of the inter-Korean summit, was in the global spotlight for a very different reason.
A North Korean soldier defected across the border there, getting shot multiple times by the guards from his military as he made his dash to the South.
The incident went viral, and brought up the issue of human rights violations in North Korea.
Won Jung-hwan brings us the North Korean defectors’ views on the inter-Korean summit.
Over 32,000 North Korean defectors have received asylum in the South, and many of them have talked about the human rights abuses they suffered under the regime in North Korea.
With the talks with Pyongyang focusing on denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula, some defectors have voiced their concern that North Korea’s human rights issues may be ignored.
“Many people are still being killed due to the repression under the regime, and prisoner camps are still operating in North Korea. That is why I think it would be rather empty to talk about the Korean Peninsula’s security without first solving the humanitarian issues.”
The reverend added that solving North Korea’s human rights issue is very difficult, but he hopes that during the summit, the two leaders can make the first step by tackling the easier issue of family reunions.
“I hope a regular system could be established through an agreement between the two Koreas. In the past, family reunions were used as a political means between the two,… but they shouldn’t be treated as a political agreement anymore, since meeting our own family is a fundamental right for human beings.”
Seoul has been trying to resolve the family reunions issue, which has been on hold since 2015,… as more aging Koreans have passed away without being able to meet with their kin on the opposite side of the border.
But at the high-level talks between South and North in January,… the two sides failed to agree on holding reunions for divided families.
Defectors offer us a glimpse into how the summit might be viewed North of the border. A defector who was in North Korea when the first inter-Korean summit took place said although many North Koreans won’t be expecting much of change in their living conditions,… he hoped that this year’s summit would be different from the previous two meetings.
“The past meetings when Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun visited Pyongyang were aimed at establishing and maintaining a relationship with North Korea. But this summit has its own significance as Kim Jong-un is coming to the South.”
The main agenda for the inter-Korean summit is denuclearization and establishing a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,… but when those matters are settled, maybe the next step should be resolving the human rights issues in North Korea.
Won Jung-hwan, Arirang News.
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