A North Korean defector-turned-activist said Monday he and other defectors will appeal to the United States to toughen sanctions and relist their former communist homeland as a terrorism sponsor for human rights violations.
Kim Seong-min, head of Free North Korea Radio, based in Seoul, made the remark during a news conference to announce action plans for this week's North Korea Freedom Week, an annual set of events aimed at drawing international attention to Pyongyang's rights abuses.
"We will appeal to the United States to redesignate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism and complete the North Korea sanctions act," Kim told the news conference at the National Press Building, referring to a House bill calling for strengthening sanctions on the North.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the committee's ranking member, introduced the act in February. It calls for the U.S. to use all available tools to impose sanctions on the North and countries and companies that assist Pyongyang in bolstering its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea was put on the U.S. terrorism sponsor list for the 1987 midair bombing of a Korean Air flight that killed all 115 people aboard. But the U.S. administration of former President George W. Bush removed Pyongyang from the list in 2008 in exchange for progress in denuclearization talks.
Other themes in this week's events include a campaign to stop China from sending North Korean refugees back to the North and a request for support from the U.S. government for defector organizations, Kim said.
Other participants in the news conference included Park Sang-hak, know for his campaign to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets aboard large balloons into the North. The ballon campaign has faced strong opposition from residents near the border who fear retaliatory military action from the North.
Park said his organization has sent balloons from undisclosed locations near the border in a low-key manner in consideration of security and safety of residents in the regions. (Yonhap)