Editor’s Note: Looking for more opinions on where we go after the Hanoi summit? Check out all 80 expert takes on where U.S-North Korea relations go next here.
“Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, arrived at home on Tuesday after successfully wrapping up his official goodwill visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” states the front page of the Rodong Sinmun.
What was successful? Why did they not mention the United States-North Korea summit?
On March 5th, 38 North and CSIS’s Beyond Parallel published that North Korea had commenced activity at the Sohae rocket launch site within forty-eight hours of the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi.
Recently, the United Nations published that North Korea’s food production is the lowest in more than a decade. An estimated eleven million people inside the country—nearly 44 percent—are undernourished. However, why did the summit again not mention North Korean human rights?
Moreover, The United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) established evidence that Michael Kirby described as something we would see in a “Holocaust Museum.” The COI heard from over two hundred witnesses, including myself, where I spoke of my personal experiences of life and abuse under the North Korean government.
In response to my testimony and the testimonies of other North Korean refugees, the European Union and other members of the international community passed a UN resolution that asked for the North Korean leadership to face justice at the International Criminal Court.
I am a North Korean refugee. I escaped from North Korea, and I now live in the United Kingdom and I work to help others.
When North Koreans cross into China, we face many dangers. Like many thousands of women, I was sold into a forced marriage before being repatriated by the Chinese authorities. Of the documented cases of the deportations of North Koreans, estimates suggest that China repatriates up to six thousand of us each year.
When we return to North Korea, we never see a UN worker about our rights. The Chinese government does not help us. And despite all of the words of the international community, we do not hear from them either.
Journalists always publish or write about dictator Kim Jong-un, nuclear weapons, and peace. I am a witness and survivor who calls for these journalists not to call Kim Jong-un Chairman Kim. This makes him sound like a normal leader rather than the rights-abusing brutal dictator who imprisons eighty thousand to one hundred and twenty thousand people in prison camps today and oversees a gargantuan prison country in the twenty-first century.
In 2017, Donald Trump visited South Korea, and he spoke at the National Assembly. He mentioned that “A sky-top view of this peninsula shows a nation of dazzling light in the South and a mass of impenetrable darkness in the North. We seek a future of light, prosperity, and peace. But we are only prepared to discuss this brighter path for North Korea if its leaders cease their threats and dismantle their nuclear program.”
Please listen to our voices. North Korea will never give up nuclear weapons. I am a human rights activist. I feel my country’s people’s pain in my heart and their fear in my mind. Please remember North Korean people. Peace and freedom cannot come to us for free. Freedom will bring enormous risks and pains, but if we exploit the weakness of a dictatorship, we can find freedom one day.
I was a weak person, but I’ve fought North Korea’s dictators. I’ve found freedom myself. My voice comes from determination for better. Like countless others, I refuse to be a participant in a culture of silence toward crimes against humanity. We have a voice. We have a choice.
Jihyun Park is a North Korean defector and Human Rights Activist. She won NatWest’s Chairman’s Award AWA 2018. Park is also the Outreach Director at Connect North Korea, a reporter with Radio Free Asia, the Co-Director of Stepping Stones.