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 I received from the Chinese government, and we should not interpret the situation in North Korea as the same as in China.”
In an interview with Daily NK, Kim stated that his torture from the Chinese government was brutal, but it is not comparable to what happens in North Korea.
His statement shows that the North Korean human rights issue should not be cast aside or lumped together with human rights in China if Kim’s torture incident becomes an international issue. Kim explained that he chose to reveal the story of his torture during detention in China to the public with the hope that it can prevent further infringements of South Korean activists’ human rights and also improve China’s human rights problems.
The Following is a Q&A 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 was also 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. They did not stop beating me until bruises appeared on my face.
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. They made us feel guilty and tried to gain our trust. They also threatened to label me, my companions and other related groups as anti-Chinese forces so that we would not be able to enter China. From elsewhere, the Chinese agency obtained information of other related people, but they did not detain them, possibly because the agency was using 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 in addition to one agent outside the room keeping watch over our meeting. The consul asked me if I had received any torture, and I replied, “How could I 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 3 meters 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 to 6 agents watching us, but this time I told the consul about the electric torture and sleep deprivation. I told them in 10 seconds, so the agents did not notice.
Q) What kind of discussions did you have with the head of the Dandong National Agency?
A) We had 2 interviews: four and a half hours on June 19th and three hours on July 14th. I protested to him, “I am not anti-Chinese and will not do any work again in China. Why have you detained and tortured me?” He answered that they had orders from the government and followed them. He also told me not to talk about the torture, but to say that I had violated Chinese law. He told me calmly, but it was almost threatening. He spent most of the time telling me not to reveal the torture to the public.
Q) The South Korean government did not make the torture incident public.
A) It seems that the incident could negatively affect negotiations going on with China. I think that the Chinese government told our government that the negotiations would not accomplish results if the torture incident became public. There is also the possibility that the Chinese government forced our government not to make the incident public.
Q) You revealed the torture to the public, but did not say anything precise.
A) I thought about it a lot and talked it over with people. We judged that if we talk about it, this kind of incident will not happen again to other activists. Also, it can help improve human rights in China.
Q) Was it because the North Korean human rights issues can be hidden when the spotlight is on Chinese human rights?
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 have been friendly with China. Do you think judgment about China will be changed because of this incident?
A) No, I think China is still important in aiding the creation of democracy in North Korea, and Korea’s reunification. There can be emotions that arise because of this incident, but individual emotions 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 agents some things before I left China. The first thing I asked was for them 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. Showing an attitude of change is beneficial to China and its relationship with South Korea. Recently, China has started to pay attention to human rights issues, so I think that showing an alteration in their attitude improves China’s image and their nation.
Q) Do you want to say anything more?
A) The torture I received was extreme. However, when compared with what occurs in 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 the North Korean human rights situation to China’s, or an overshadowing of North Korea’s human rights issues.