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Lord Alton & North Korea

Year 12 visited the House of Lords to discuss North Korea with the Patron of our Ficino Society, Professor the Lord David Alton of Liverpool. We were joined by students from St Catherine’s Twickenham and our own Senior Girls’ School.

Artist and defector Kim Hye Sook spoke to us of her 27 year incarceration in Yodok prison camp, where she was taken aged 18. She showed a series of her own paintings depicting the suffering she witnessed and experienced first-hand. Mrs Kim used the pictures to explain to the group what a normal working day in “Camp 18” was like, from the manual labour undertaken by prisoners and scarcity of food provisions to the regular public executions and cannibalism she saw over her 27 years imprisonment. She spoke about the death of her son in the camp. She then produced a map she had drawn from memory of the layout of the camp which was photographed by some of the attendants. A recorded interview with Mrs Kim was broadcast on the Today Programme on the 30th June, linked to here

Mr Joo explained to the group that he was a political dissident who fled North Korea to settle in Britain after being forced to serve 11 years in the North Korean military until his escape in 2005. He thanked the British people for their hospitality to North Korean dissidents and the UK Government for allowing them entry. He spoke of malnutrition in the camps and the tendency of the DPRK to lavish gifts upon their most loyal supporters. He then showed a video of North Korean women to illustrate the level of hysteria that surrounds the political leadership in North Korea.

Speaking about his experiences with Open Radio North Korea emphasised the need to provide more information about the situation in DPRK. He explained that communications within DPRK were extremely difficult and necessarily underground. According to Mr Ha, owning a mobile phone from a banned network could lead to public execution. He continued to provide an analysis of the power base of the North Korean government, speculating that it was increasingly diminished and that this was likely to lead to more frequent and severe human rights abuses to try to secure that the authority of the government is respected.

Mr Narayan spoke about the rarity of Mrs Kim Hye Sook’s story as so few dissidents escape camp 18. He explained that Amnesty have concentrated their research on Yodok prison camp in which around 50,000 people are imprisoned, and is around the size of a mid-capacity Unites States city. He stated that agricultural production for the camp had increased, indicating that the numbers of incarcerated person might be rising. Mr Narayan added that Amnesty International estimates that two of every five prisoners die in the camps. He showed the group a video Amnesty have produced, most of which can be viewed at the following link:







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