The 28-year old defector at the center of today’s big news in South Korea, Baek Yo Sep finally drew an apology from lawmaker Lim Soo Kyung of the Democratic United Party after she insulted him and all defectors when she called them “rootless people” and “turncoats”.
Baek allowed Daily NK to interview him at the offices of North Korean Youth for North Korea Human Rights this afternoon despite avoiding newspaper reporters since posting Lim’s remarks on his Facebook page. This is what he had to say;
-The public in South Korea has been shocked by this event. How do you feel right now?
I feel calm. I demanded an apology from Lim because she made some wrong remarks about defectors and human rights. She apologized but I didn’t feel that it was sincere. I said her apology was harsh, but I have no intention of asking or demanding anything from her for the incident. I feel that it would be political act to hang anything more on her apology.
-Are you going to accept the apology even though it was seemingly not sincere?
I’ll have to watch her actions very closely. She apologized for the bad remarks she made about defectors and human rights, but it personally did not feel sincere. I will see whether it is sincere or not by her behavior. I will be watching her.
-Lim’s apology seems to have been to avoid the blame. Lim is getting away with it on the basis that she referred to lawmaker Ha as the turncoat and not North Korean defectors. There is testimony that she continued to make comments about defectors even after you separated.
Well.. I have told you. I will not say anything further regarding that day. I have already revealed enough on my Facebook.
-There are many people who were surprised by lawmaker Lim’s cruel remarks. Some say that Lim should resign. What do you expect Lim to do?
What Lim does politically is in the political realm. It is not something we need to attack as a personal matter. I look forward to positive change in Lim and the Democratic Party. That change is related to the problems of defectors and human rights.
-There is great media attention focused on the recorded conversation. However, Lim has already acknowledged the facts about her remarks so some are concerned that it will be too much to release it.
I will not go public with the recording. Lim’s remarks were not public but in a private drinking meeting. I did not plan it from the beginning. It was a response coming after enduring continuous insulting remarks. I couldn’t go without recording it because Lim’s remarks were very severe but I do not plan on revealing the recorded file because Lim has already apologized.
- Lim’s office said that she called you and apologized. What did Lim say in the call?
I didn’t meet Lim in person. Lim said through an acquaintance that she ‘bitterly admits it, apologizes and is reflecting on it’. I cannot say whether Lim said it directly. It is not a problem of whether she apologized or not. 20,000-some defectors had their reputation harmed and the people are angry. The issue here is not whether I got an apology or not.
-Through this incident, did you feel anything about South Korean society and its attitude towards North Korea?
First and foremost it is about attitude towards the problems of defectors and human rights. I am aware that South Koreans have various different attitudes towards defectors. But this was coming from a lawmaker that defectors are turncoats. If politicians were to make laws according to these views then I wonder how much damage it would do the defectors resettled here in South Korea. If the politicians do not wake up it could be a huge deal.