A North Korean defector addressed British members of parliament yesterday as part of a three-day visit to the United Kingdom. As well as speaking to the all-party parliamentary group on North Korea, Kim Hye-sook, 49, was also due to meet representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and NGOs. Kim, a well-known artist, was imprisoned at the age of 13 because her father had fled to South Korea. She later married and gave birth to a son and daughter in the prison camp, but lost her husband and children to accident and illness. She escaped to China in 2005 but was repatriated in 2007 and spent another year in a prison camp before escaping again to seek refuge in South Korea. She arrived there in April 2009, after a total of 27 years in prison. Her artwork about North Korea’s prison camps has been exhibited in the South and her memoirs, A Concentration Camp Retold in Tears, have been published in Korean. Some of her artwork was on display during the parliamentary hearing, which was chaired by Catholic rights campaigner Lord Alton. Another North Korean defector, Kim Joo-il, who is based in the UK, also addressed the hearing, along with representatives from Amnesty International. “This parliamentary hearing is a vital opportunity to turn the spotlight on the world’s most brutal system of repression,” Andrew Johnston, advocacy director at the British-based rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said earlier. “The first-hand testimony of survivors of the prison camps will help highlight the crimes against humanity perpetrated by North Korea’s regime. “We believe the time has come for the UN to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate these crimes … and this hearing will be a compelling contribution to helping achieve this objective.”
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