Last year marked a turning point for Kim Seong-min, managing director of Free North Korea (FNK), a radio station for North Korean human rights based in Seoul. Kim, 45, made a trip to Washington to meet President George W. Bush at the White House with families of North Korean refugee Kim Han-mi and Japanese kidnapping victim Megumi Yokota.
The radio station, which is located in the basement of a crumbling building, was chosen as one of three North Korean human rights organizations to receive financial aid from the U.S. government. FNK airs a 60-minute program on short-wave radio every day at 7 p.m. Kim Seong-min first set up the radio station on April 20, 2004. He said he would define his staff members not as reporters, but as activists for North Korean human rights.
Kim Seong-min has become one of the busiest North Korean defectors in South Korea since he came to Seoul in February 1999 via China. His New Year’s Day started with greeting more than 200 guests, mostly North Korean defectors living in Seoul, in his 17-pyong (56-square-meter) apartment in Sinjong-dong, southwestern Seoul. For Kim Seong-min, who has led several North Korean defectors’ groups here in the past few years, not a day passed last month without a social gathering.
He called on the government to show more sympathy toward defectors. "I could have saved a 24-year-old boy last month. He was one of 12 North Korean defectors crossing the border between Vietnam and Cambodia, but he drowned in the water,’’ he said. "I couldn’t say a word when I got a phone call from his mom, who managed to call me from the North Korea-China border to ask about her boy.’’
He said 1 million won ($950) is enough to help two North Korean defectors find asylum in South Korea. "If it’s not possible at a government level, the Roh Moo-hyun administration should have helped nongovernmental organizations to help those refugees instead of cutting subsidies for defectors,’’ he said.
Like the defectors themselves, Kim and his radio station face many obstacles. A hatchet was delivered to the radio station on Dec. 23, with a bloody picture of Hwang Jang-yup, former secretary of North Korea’s ruling Workers Party. Hwang defected to the South in 1997.
Often called Hwang’s spokesman, Kim has supported Hwang’s denunciations of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his regime.
[Excerpt of an article by By Lee Jin-woo, The Korea Times]