Mother Forced to Drown Own Child in North Korean Prison, Says Defector
Details of a woman in a North Korean labor camp being forced to drown her new-born child emerged this week in a testimony given by a North Korean defector in Washington D.C.
At a detention center in North Korea, pregnant women were forced to carry out hard labor all day long, defector Ji Hyeon A told a U.S. Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing at Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
“Because North Korea does not allow mixed ethnicities, they make women who have become pregnant in China to miscarry by forcing them to [do] hard labor,” said Ji.
One woman, however, didn’t have a miscarriage.
“[She] gave birth to a baby at night at eight months after a full day of work,” said Ji. “She was so happy to hold her child, but that moment was short lived.”
The woman was ordered to drown her newborn.
“She pleaded to the guard for mercy with the baby in her arms, but in the end, she did as told,” said Ji. “The image of the dead infant tore through my 20-year-old heart.”
That was the first time that Ji had been imprisoned for fleeing North Korea. In total, she was caught in China and repatriated three times.
She recalled another time she was sent to a so-called re-education center from where she said not many people have made it out alive.
“Everyone was subject to harsh labor, and meals were so lacking that we ate raw locusts, discarded cabbage leaves, and skinned frogs and rats,” Ji said.
“People died withered and dehydrated from continuous diarrhea.”
At this prison, Ji became friends with an orphan named Younghee. “Her parents were shot dead and she was alone. We promised to survive this place and go to South Korea together,” Ji said.
“One day, we secretly ate some grass while working but got caught and were ordered to eat grass roots with dirt still on them. This caused Younghee [to have] diarrhea, and she eventually died from it.”
She said everyone knew that dead bodies in the prison were fed to a dog belonging to a guard. “My friend Younghee was no exception,” she said.
— U.S. State Dept | Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor (@StateDRL) December 11, 2017
During her testimony, Ji went on to recount being tortured herself for possessing a Bible, and a rib-breaking beating she was subjected to. She also spoke about how she was forced to have an abortion after her third failed attempt to flee North Korea.
“I was three-months pregnant and was forced [to have] an abortion without any medication at [a] local police station in North Korea,” she said. “So my first child passed away without ever seeing the world, without any time for me to apologize.”
Ji’s fourth attempt to flee North Korea was successful and she was settled in South Korea in 2007. She is now an author and activist.
“North Korea is a terrifying prison, and it takes a miracle to survive there,” she said. “But the Chinese government sends North Koreans seeking freedom back to this prison.”
I am scared, is anyone there?
I am here in hell, is anyone there?
I scream & yell, but no one opens the door.
Is anyone there?
Please listen to our moans & listen to our pain.
Is anyone there?
— UK at the UN 🇬🇧 (@UKUN_NewYork) December 11, 2017
Robert R. King, an American diplomat and former U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Issues, told the hearing that about 30,000 North Koreans have successfully fled the North and resettled in South Korea.
“China has a mixed record with Korean defectors,” King said.
“When relations were good between China and North Korea, most defectors who were captured in China were quickly returned to North Korea, where they were brutalized and sent to re-education camps to discourage others from attempting to leave,” he said.
The day before the hearing at Capitol Hill, Ji also spoke at a U.N. hearing titled “North Korea Human Rights: The Terrifying Experiences of Forcibly Repatriated North Korean Women” that was hosted by Australia, Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, the U.K., and the United States.
"We must maintain international focus on the human rights situation in North Korea."
— Foreign Office 🇬🇧 (@foreignoffice) December 11, 2017
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