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Defector urges N.K. leader to dismantle prison camps

April 16, 2012 - 12:07 By Korea Herald
PARIS (Yonhap News) ― A North Korean defector has sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un urging him to dismantle the country’s prison camps and free its inmates.

Kim Tae-jin, a human rights activist in Seoul who defected from the North, conveyed the letter to the North Korean representative office in Paris Sunday through the office’s mail box. Kim is in Paris at the invitation of the French Amnesty International office.

Officials of the North Korean representative office were not immediately available for comment.
Kim Tae-jin, a human rights activist in Seoul who defected from North Korea, puts a letter into the mailbox at the North Korean representative office in Paris on Sunday, urging the dismantling of prison camps. (Yonhap News)

In the letter, the activist petitioned the North Korean leader to release the wife and two daughters of Oh Kil-nam, a high-profile South Korean who has led a public campaign to have his family released from North Korea.

Oh fled the North alone in 1986, a year after his family was lured to the communist country via West Germany. His escape led to the detention of his wife and two daughters in a political prison camp.

Several North Korean defectors in the South have testified that they saw Oh’s family in a prison camp before they escaped to South Korea.

An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 North Koreans are held in political prison camps in North Korea, according to activists.

Kim, the North Korean defector, also urged the new young North Korean leader to make a “wise and courageous decision” for the country’s future, stating that the North could have resolved its severe food shortages with the money it spent on its recent failed rocket launch.

South Korea estimates the launch cost North Korea some $850 million, the equivalent of feeding 19 million people for one year in a country of 24 million people.

The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s, when it suffered a massive famine that is estimated to have resulted in the starvation of 2 million people.