North Korea defector claims forced abortions

A North Korean defector testified to have witnessed forced abortions and infanticide at a detention camp in North Korea.

"I heard the cries of both mother and child through the curtain (at a hospital). And through the partially open curtain, I witnessed the nurse covering the infant's face with a wet towel on a table, suffocating it," a 28-year-old identified as Park Sun-ja told an international conference on North Korean human rights abuses Tuesday.

"The baby stopped crying about ten minutes later," added Park, whose real name was not provided to protect her.

Seven other North Korean defectors appeared at the 6th International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees, testifying about human rights violations on North Koreans.

But it was Park's testimony that was the most gripping. She said she stayed at Shinuiju Provincial Detention Camp for two months after being caught in China and deported to the country of her origin in 2000. She finally succeeded in gaining asylum in South Korea in 2002 after her second escape attempt.

She said injections to cause miscarriage were the norm at the detention camp. "All the prisoners there believed that all infants were killed immediately upon delivery and wrapped up in a piece of cloth before being buried at a nearby hill," she said.

Human right groups raised the issue of compulsory abortions and infanticide at detention camps in North Korea in the early 2000s, but North Korea strongly denied the accusation.

"I cannot even imagine how she may have felt," Park said, her voice quivering as spoke in front of some 100 people. "I heard that these kinds of acts were done before, but once I saw them with my eyes, I didn't feel like living in the society again."

Her hair tied back neatly, she also recalled painfully the traumatic experience of inhumane treatments at the camp.

"Severe beatings through the use of sticks, fists (punching), and feet (kicking) were standard practice," Park said. "Cells were infested with insects, fleas, lice, and other parasites. It was disgusting."

Referring to heavy workloads at the camp, she said, "While I was starving, I was also forced to do extremely difficult and laborious farm work, which was extremely tough to me."

When she was caught again by Chinese police on her second escape attempt, Park told them, "Go ahead and detain me as long as you wish. I will defect from North Korea ten or twenty times regardless of how long you hold me for!"

Human rights experts were also at the three-day conference, which was arranged by the Citizen's Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.

Some left-wing civic groups boycotted the conference, saying it only denounces North Korea and does no good in improving the human rights of North Koreans.



By Jin Hyun-joo