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North Korean Defectors Call on Biden to Focus on Human Rights

As President Joe Biden was sworn into office Wednesday, North Korean defectors living throughout the United States expressed hope that his administration would place North Koreans’ human rights above Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and deal forcefully with leader Kim Jong Un.Jake Kim, North Korean defector. (Screenshot)“If [the Biden administration] focuses more attention on North Korean human rights, it can lead to a result that grants legitimacy to the people, the residents of North Korea,” said Jake Kim, a 38-year-old North Korean defector who arrived in the U.S. in 2015 and is studying political science at Utah Valley University, a public institution in the city of Orem.“But when you ignore human rights and focus on nuclear weapons and Kim Jong Un, it can end up legitimizing Kim Jong Un’s regime,” he told VOA Korean Service.Kim added, “I think the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons will be resolved when human rights issue is resolved first.”Former President Donald Trump initially focused attention on North Korea’s human rights record by inviting defector and human rights activist Ji Seong-ho to his first State of the Union in 2018. Trump highlighted Ji’s flight on crutches from North Korea.Now a member of South Korean National Assembly, Ji is a double amputee.North Korean Defector: Trump Sent Warning to Kim in State of Union Address

        A North Korean double amputee who fled North Korea on crutches says President Donald Trump sent a warning when he spoke of human rights violations in North Korea. During Tuesday night's State of the Union address, Trump said, "No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea. ... 

But as Trump forged a close relationship with North Korea’s leader through two U.S.-North Korean summits, a Justin Seo, a Virginia resident who came to the U.S. in 2009 from North Korea. (Screenshot)Referring to Trump’s conciliatory tones toward Kim, Justin Seo, a 32-year-old Virginia resident who came to the U.S. in 2009, said, “What I was disappointed with President Trump, to be honest, is that he called Kim Jong Un ‘great.’”Seo continued, “I would like [Biden] to deal more forcefully [with the regime].”Charles Kim, 53, who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, wants to see continued U.S. pressure on Pyongyang.“I would like the Biden administration to seek measures to pressure North Korea so that sanctions on North Korea can become more effective,” said Kim, who fled North Korea in 2005 and arrived in the U.S. in 2008. In July, more than 40 countries accused North Korea of Grace Jo escaped North Korea in October 2006 and entered the US two years later in March 2008.Describing herself as “a survivor who experienced true North Korea,” Grace Jo, a 29-year-old student at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, spoke on behalf of North Korean defectors seeking freedom in the U.S.“I would be very thankful if the new administration listens to the voice of those people and help giving them freedom so there can be more free college students like myself,” said Jo, who escaped North Korea in October 2006 and entered the U.S. two years later in March 2008.Christy Lee contributed to this report, originated by VOA Korean. 

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