Two North Korean defectors now have warned that information provided by the Kim Jong Un regime should not be trusted, amid stalled negotiations with Pyongyang over its investigation into the fate of Japanese abductees.
A survivor of the North Korean prison camp system named Cheol Hwan Kang, and a former spy dispatched to the South as part of the North’s extensive espionage effort who for his own safety was identified only as Mr. K, spoke at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Wednesday. Their comments touched on the Japanese abductees situation, as well as the ongoing human rights violations in their reclusive native country.
Based on his experience as a former intelligence agent, Mr. K said that North Korea’s assertion that all unaccounted-for Japanese abductees had died was false.
“They know perfectly well” where these individuals are, he said.
Some Japanese abductees are currently working as spies, and are helping their colleagues to learn Japanese in order to conduct intelligence gathering missions to Japan, Mr. K added.
Kang said that while many people expected conditions to improve when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un succeeded his late father in 2011, the situation has remains bleak.
“Kim Jong Un is executing people in a very violent manner,” he said, speaking through a translator.
For example, Kang claimed that some recent executions had been carried out by shooting the victims with so many bullets that their bodies turned to pulp. In other cases, he had heard of victims being burned to death — suggesting that current levels of violence may surpass those seen during the reign of Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il.
In Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2015, which was issued in January, the organization said the Kim regime practices collective punishment for anyone seen to oppose the supreme leader’s policies, including Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of Kim Jong Un and his political mentor, who was executed in December 2013.
Despite serious violations of human rights, the international community is exerting insufficient pressure on North Korea to reveal what living conditions are actually like in the country, the two defectors said.
Japan officially lists 17 individuals as having been abducted by North Korean agents. They includes Megumi Yokota, who was captured in 1977 at the age of 13. There is scant information about what happened to her or the others, beyond what the regime has said.
Kang was detained as a child at Yodok concentration camp. He said he experienced torture for 10 years until he escaped and came to South Korea in 1992.
When Mr. K was caught by South Korea, his relatives in the North were executed, he said. He had been working as an agent repatriating spies in the South to the North, as well as recruiting new ones.
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