Kim Young Hwan, a South Korean activist who was detained and tortured by the Chinese government, stated, “The North Korean human rights issue should not be overshadowed by the torture that I received from the Chinese government, and we should not interpret the situation in North Korea as the same as in China”.
At the interview with the Daily NK, Kim stated that the torture he received from the Chinese government was brutal, but it was not comparable to what happens in North Korea.
His statement shows that the North Korean human rights issue should not be left behind or treated similar to human rights in China while his torture incident becomes an international issue. He explained that he revealed his torture from the Chinese government to the public so that it can prevent further infringement of South Korean activists’ human rights, and it can also improve China’s human rights problems.
<Interview with Kim Young Hwan>
Q) What kind of torture did you receive from the Chinese government?
A) Four days after detention, they handcuffed me in a harsh manner. My hands were paralyzed for about a month after that. I also was deprived of sleep for 6 days, from April 10th to 15th. After I got an electrocardiogram and a blood test on the 15th, they put the electric prod on my chest and back for 5~8 hours. After the electric torture, they beat me. When I was starting to bruise on my face, they stopped beating me.
Q) Was there any conciliation or threat other than torture?
A) The Chinese agency kept asking us about the responsibilities of the people who were sacrificed for North Korea’s democracy. That’s because they tried to gain our trust as they made us feel guilty. Also, they threatened that they will label me, my companions and other related groups as anti-Chinese forces so that we cannot enter China. The Chinese agency obtained information of other related people from elsewhere, but the reason they did not detain them was maybe the agency tried to use them to threaten us. They also threatened us of repatriation 20 times.
Q) The first consul meeting happened on April 26th. Did you tell the consul about the torture?
A) In the meeting room, there were 4 Chinese agents, and there was one agent outside the room to keep watch on our meeting. The consul asked me if I had received any torture, and I answered that how I could tell you that in a situation like this.
Q) Were there any wounds on you at the first meeting?
A) There were some wounds from the beating, but they were unnoticeable since I was 3m away from the consul. There was a bruise from the beating under my eyes and a burn from the electric torture on my chest and back.
Q) The second consul meeting was on June 11th. Did you tell them about the torture?
A) There were 5~6 agents watching us but I told the consul about the electric torture and sleep deprivation. I told them for 10 seconds so the agents did not notice that.
Q) What kind of discussions did you have with the head of the Dandong National Agency?
A) We had 2 interviews: 4 and half hours on June 19th and 3 hours on July 14th. I protested to him, “I am not anti-Chinese and will not do any work again in China, and why have you detained and tortured me?” He answered that they just got orders from the government and followed it. He also told me not to talk about the torture but to say that I violated Chinese law. He told me smoothly but it was almost threatening. Most of the time, he told me not to reveal the torture to the public.
Q) The South Korean government did not make the torture incident public.
A) It seems the incident can affect it negatively since there are negotiations going on with China. I think the Chinese government told our government that the negotiations will not be accomplished well if the torture incident becomes public. There is the possibility that the Chinese government forced our government.
Q) You revealed the torture to the public but did not say anything precise.
A) I thought about it a lot and talked with related people. We judged that as we talk about it more, this kind of incident will not happen again to other activists. Also, it can improve human rights in China.
Q) Was it because the North Korean human rights issues can be hidden when the Chinese human rights issues rise?
A) That is the one thing I was concerned about the most. I did not want the public to focus on the Chinese human rights issue. The North Korean human rights issue is the most important matter.
Q) For so long, we were friendly to China. Do you think judgment about China will be changed because of this incident?
A) No. I think China is still important in aiding in creation of democracy in North Korea, and Korea’s reunification. There can be some emotional things that arise because of this incident, but individual emotion cannot be changed.
Q) How did you feel when you were handed over to the South Korean government?
A) I felt relieved, but I wanted to tell the Chinese government people things before I left China so I told them. The first thing was to apologize to me about the torture. The second was to apologize about insulting the North Korea democracy movement. The third one was to apologize to the people who were sacrificed from the North Korea democracy movement.
Q) The Chinese foreign minister denied the torture incident.
A) I anticipated that. To get out of the frame, showing an attitude of change is beneficial to China and the relationship between South Korea and China. Recently, China has started to pay attention to human rights issues, so, I think, showing an alteration in their attitude is good for China’s improvement of their image and their nation.
Q) Do you want to say anything more?
A) The torture I received was extreme. However, when compare to North Korea, it is hard to say extreme. The Chinese human rights situation should be raised and criticized but it should not lead to anti-Chinese rhetoric, comparison of North Korean human rights situation to China’s, or overshadow North Korea’s human rights issues.