Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Defectors highlight sad state of North Korean soldiers

North Korean soldiers are increasingly plagued by malnutrition and human rights abuses amid the communist state's worsening food shortage, according to testimonies made by a number of former North Korean soldiers who defected to South Korea.

"I weighed 42 kilograms when I entered the military, but my weight was reduced to 31 kilograms in two years," Paek Hwa-seong, one of the defectors, said at the seminar hosted by North Korea Strategy Center, a Seoul-based conservative private think tank on human rights in the communist state. "My hair almost fell out after turning yellow and I was bony." 

Park Myeong-ho, a former captain, said starving soldiers have often stolen food from civilians, which created a saying in the North that the best place to live is where there is no military unit. 

He said there could be a rise of anti-Kim Jong-il forces in the North as pro-democracy movements sweep the Middle East. "Some claim there is no possibility of revolt in North Korea, but I think, once ignited, the fire of democratization can turn around the current situation in a short period because of the collective nature of the North Korean society," Park said.

North Korea's female soldiers suffer from serious sexual harassment in addition to malnutrition and poor supply of necessities, according to Choi Hee-kyung, a female defector who worked as an instructor at the North Korean Air Force Command. The women often had months without menstruation as a result of malnutrition, she said.

"Sexual harassment on female soldiers was so serious that they had to endure a physical touch. Some got pregnant from sexual assault and had to work wearing a maternity belt," Choi testified.

Yonhap News

No comments: