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Korean rights advocate says he was abused in China

SEOUL (UCAN): Kim Young-hwan, a campaigner for human rights in The Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea, said on July 25 that he was physically abused by state security agents during almost four months of detention in China.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his ordeal following his arrest on March 29 in northeastern China, Kim told a press conference in Seoul that his captors tried to force him to admit that he violated China state security laws.

He said that he refused to agree to their demands, although he declined to give details of his time in detention, pending a formal complaint from the South Korean government.

“I was treated harshly during the police investigation, though I cannot disclose how they abused me,” said Kim.

The Committee for the Release of Kim Young Hwan claims, however, that Kim was not allowed to sleep at night, was underfed and forced to do hard labour for 13 hours every day at a Chinese detention centre in Dandong, the main border town with North Korea.

Kim said that the North Korean authorities were directly involved in detaining him. He was picked up with three other human rights workers.

The four men were arrested in Dalian in northeastern China and then transferred to a facility on the border with North Korea. According to many campaigners, this is a clear sign that North Korean agents were participating in the investigation into their activities.

Kim has refused to discuss what they were doing prior to their imprisonment. “It could hurt other human rights advocates in China,” he said.

Kim, formerly a supporter of the Communist regime in Pyongyang, made a famous secretive trip north of the demilitarised zone, which divides the Korean peninsula, aboard a submarine to hold a meeting with then leader Kim Il-sung in 1991.

He subsequently renounced his support for North Korea’s Communist ideology of Juche, or self-reliance, in an about-face that has seen him campaign against the regime ever since.

He is currently working as a senior researcher at the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, a Seoul-based group that supports defectors from north of the demilitarised zone.

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