“North Korean Human Rights, More Serious Than We Think”

[imText1]Currently as a honorary professor at Seoul National University and chair professor at Myungji University, Lee In Ho, is the first Korean woman ambassador who served as the South Korean ambassador to Finland and Russia.

Through interviews with news, she recently expressed her opinion on confusion in South Korean identity. She presently holds the position of co-chair of the North Korean human rights international conference in Seoul held by Freedom Hous and human rights NGOs.

At the press conference held in October 24 notifying the international conference to be held, The DailyNK met her to hear from her of her causes to participate in the North Korean human rights movement.

Lee pursued a quiet life devoting herself in the scholarly work, but said she could no longer tolerate the urgent North Korean human rights problem, thus became publicly active. Lee emphasizes that through the coming conference, the South Korean society must actively search for the ways to increase domestic and international awareness about and improve the serious North Korean human rights situation.

– Is there a reason who decided to accept the chair position of the conference?

Personally, I tried to avoid political activities, and I wanted to live a quite life as an intellectual. However, it was a burden in my heart how cold-heartedly we are responding to the problem of North Korean human rights. Recently I heard stories told be defectors in person, and realizing how dire the situation is, I felt moral obligation to participate.

Especially at this time when the world is involved in the problem, there is no one putting a name card from South Korea, so I wanted to contribute my strength to them.

– The problem of North Korean human rights is a sensitive issue still in South Korea.

It is not an easy problem, and I do not want to directly affect the government either. We must be effective in the humanitarian way in which it directly assists the suffering people in North Korea, not to satisfy people’s curiosity or for a political purpose. I hope many participate regardless of whether they are left or right.

We should be ashamed of how the problem grew to be an issue from outsiders, when we, the insiders have not done much. This conference too, was initiated by the US, so of course there could be arguments on whether or not we are American puppets, but such questions does not diagnosis the core of the problem. It is about time that we seriously evaluate what we can do as the same nation (minjok).

– What are the expected results of this conference?

I expect to give right impression about the reality of North Korea. We think about the Korean unification only in abstract way, but we must know what we must be prepared of and thus how to prepare for the unification where peace coexists. The purpose of the unification is so that both South and North Koreans can live life of human being. We could let the South Korean society know the reality of North Korea, where the people are dying suffering.

– What do you think about the South Korean government’s passive attitude towards the North Korean human rights issue?

The problem of North Korean human rights has been raised around the world and our government’s official position of which we should live peacefully by ourselves only seems to be apathetic. I feel heart broken and guilty as a human being. I served as an ambassador, so it is in my big interest how Korea is perceived to other countries in the world. Morally rightful also signifies political democratization.