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Monday, December 19, 2016

North Korea Defectors Testify About Torture, 'Modern-Day Slavery'

Viewing of foreign media could have serious consequences, a former inspector said

By Elizabeth Shim

North Korea severely punished citizens for viewing foreign media, a defector said Monday.
File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI 

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A North Korean defector who once spied on his fellow citizens testified on Monday that people arrested for watching foreign films would have their fingers broken or their nails pulled out as forms of punishment.

The statement from the defector in his 50s identified only by his surname Kim was given during a press conference held by South Korea-based defector organization North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, local news service News 1 reported.

Kim, a former university professor, said he began to work as a member of an "anti-socialist inspection group" in South Hamgyong Province, where he "used all means and methods to prevent North Koreans from having contact with the outside world."

Kim said his activities led to the arrest of the propaganda secretary of Hamhung city, who was ultimately responsible for distributing a South Korean television show to three middle school students who were watching the media at home when Kim made an unexpected visit of a house in 2000.

The North Korean official was tortured "every day," and all 10 of his fingers were broken in the course of interrogation, Kim said.

Kim said in July 2002 alone he handled 500 similar cases, and detainees were punished with nail-pulling, starvation or subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation using bright lights.

Another defector who was in charge of monitoring women laborers sent overseas described the workers as "modern-day slaves."

The defector, also in his late 50s with the last name Kim, said North Korea began sending women workers to the Czech Republic in 1998 to earn foreign currency for the regime.

The women are under "double, triple surveillance" and are "treated like animals," the defector said.

The money they earn goes to the regime to fund the lavish lifestyle of Kim Jong Un or to build weapons of mass destruction, the defector said.

Women are also exploited by the regime and have been used as prizes for North Korea's nuclear scientists, the South China Morning Post reported Sunday.

Some nuclear scientists described as "monsters" by Lee Ae-ran, a woman defector, were exposed to radiation but were given brides as recompense, according to the report.