A 35-year-old defector is the new human face of the horrors in North Korea.
Ji Seong-ho fled torture and starvation in North Korea in a remarkable escape story. Now he is the Trump’s administration’s newest weapon in its war of words against North Korea.
“North Korea is the kingdom of evil,” he told Fox News in a rare interview.
Ji was singled out by President Trump in his State of Union address last month. He was seen defiantly holding up his crutches. He lost a leg and a hand in an accident in 1996 struggling to stay alive in North Korea.
Ten years later, when famine, hardship and persecution were too unbearable, he swam to freedom, crossing a river from North Korea to China, almost drowning in the process.
“Even if I had just one day,” he said,” I wanted to live as a human being outside of North Korea.”
After the State of the Union, Ji, currently a law student at Dongguk University in South Korea, met with President Trump in the White House and then Vice President Pence during his trip to South Korea.
He even met and hugged Fred Warmbier, the father of the American student who died after being held captive in North Korea.
He said he sees his newfound fame as a sort of victory.
“It is a victory against North Korea,” he said. “A victory against evil.”
Ji runs the Seoul-based North Korean humanitarian organization "Now Action & Unity for Human Rights.” He helps defectors get out of the North and assists them when they’re in the South. His radio broadcasts reach the reclusive state.
He has faced threats and North Korea state media recently branded him "human scum."
He said he is concerned about recent moves by South Korea to engage with the North through Olympic diplomacy, including a visit by the sister of Kim Jong Un. He knows, he said, from tough experience.
“I think that North Korea has a hidden side,” he warned, “I think this is just a show.”
Ji said any future conversations the South, or even the U.S., has with North Korea must deal not only with nuclear weapons and missiles, but human suffering in the country, as well.
Washington seems to agree.