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North Koreans Tell Congress About Escaping from Kim's 'Hellish' Regime

North Koreans gather at Kim Il Sung Square for a rally on Dec. 1, 2017, in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

WASHINGTON – Speaking before Congress today, two North Korean defectors offered a glimpse into the brainwashing tactics conducted by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime.

Han Ga Hee, who escaped to China in 2002, described propaganda films that North Korea has been circulating. One of those videos falsely shows how South Korean officials “lure” North Korean defectors into the country. The film claims that the defectors are then harvested for intelligence information concerning the DPRK and then executed.

Han, who spoke through an interpreter, told lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights that she fully believed this to be true while growing up in North Korea and that many of her peers thought the same.

That was before Han’s father was effectively put to death by North Korean authorities when he was caught sneaking into China in attempt to find food. He was sent to North Korean prison and beaten with leather belts while standing outside naked in -30 degrees Celsius temperature. He was then forced to kneel before the Tumen River for an entire night, according to Han, and got severe frostbite on his legs, which had to be amputated. He died shortly after the beating. Han told lawmakers that the Kim regime’s declarations on human rights are “laughable.”

Han, who was born in 1980, was inspired to cross the Chinese border in 2002 after listening to broadcasts from Free North Korea Radio. After six years in China, she saved enough money to hire a broker to get her to South Korea. He dropped her off at the Mongolia border with a compass and told her to head north. She walked for several days alone through the desert and was eventually picked up by the Mongolian police. When she reached South Korea in 2008, she met the producers of Free North Korea Radio, who were all fellow defectors. She now works as a news announcer and sound engineer for the radio station.

Hyeona Ji, another defector, told Congress about her four separate escapes from North Korea and various sentences in hard-labor prison camps after being repatriated by Chinese authorities. She detailed numerous atrocities, beatings and deaths inside these “re-education centers,” and how many of the dead were fed to guard dogs. Her ribs were broken in one beating, an injury that still plagues her today because it never healed properly, and she periodically suffers from epileptic seizures.

“North Korea is one terrifying prison, and the Kim regime is carrying out crimes against humanity in North Korea, and it is only a miracle that people – and I, myself – survive the hellish experience of prison camp,” Hyeona said.

She accused Chinese officials of “murder” for repatriating North Korean defectors. She and her family first escaped North Korea in 1998, but she was caught and escaped at least three other times. In her second escape, she was caught by Chinese sex traffickers and sold for 25,000 Chinese Yuan, which is about $3,700. She was repatriated by Chinese authorities twice more, including in 2002, when she was three months pregnant and forced to undergo an abortion without any medication. She almost died from the blood loss.

“How is this different from murder?” she asked of China’s attempts to repatriate refugees.

Hyeona now serves as chairwoman of the Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea.

Thae Yong Ho, considered the highest-ranking North Korean official to abandon the country, having served as Kim’s No. 2 diplomat in the UK, told Congress in November that there are about 30,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea. There are also tens of thousands living in China as undocumented immigrants.

Han said that the radio station often interviews defectors, and through their testimony, they believe that the regime is facing a “tremendous internal collapse” as North Korea is commonly regarded as a “capitalist society with a twist.” She said Kim is ruling through force because he fears he is losing his grip on society.

“The tyranny cannot last forever,” Han said.