The Korea Herald


Defector-lawmaker gets called ‘commie’ by opposition colleague at Assembly

North Korea defectors blast Democratic Party of Korea lawmaker remarks as derogatory

By Kim Arin

Published : Sept. 7, 2023 - 18:13

    • Link copied

People Power Party Rep. Tae Yong-ho leaves after making a protest visit to Democratic Party of Korea leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung on Thursday. (Yonhap) People Power Party Rep. Tae Yong-ho leaves after making a protest visit to Democratic Party of Korea leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Ruling People Power Party Rep. Tae Yong-ho, who defected from North Korea about six years ago before he was elected to the National Assembly in 2020, was publicly insulted by a Democratic Party of Korea lawmaker during Thursday’s plenary session of the National Assembly.

Tae, who is the first North Korean defector to be directly elected into the Assembly, was called “scum from North Korea,” “commie” and “traitor” by main opposition Democratic Party Rep. Park Young-soon.

The derogatory remarks came after the ruling party lawmaker on the Assembly’s unification committee urged the Democratic Party to give its approval in appointing the chair of the North Korea human rights foundation that has yet to launch. He said that the Democratic Party, by failing to join in on the ruling party push to kickstart the foundation, was ”aiding the totalitarian regime of North.“

On Thursday, North Korean defector groups issued a statement condemning the opposition party lawmaker's open insults against Tae.

“Defectors, who risked our lives to escape from North Korea to find freedom, don’t deserve to be called ‘scum,’” they said in the statement. They said that Tae was “not wrong” to criticize the Democratic Party for delaying the foundation’s launch.

“This is not about a single lawmaker. Calling Tae 'scum' or 'commie' just because he is from North Korea is like an insult to the entire defector community,” they said.

Following protests from the defector groups, Tae made a visit to Democratic Party leaer Rep. Lee Jae-myung -- who for the past week has been on a hunger strike condemning what he called the Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s “tyranny” -- and asked for an official apology from the party. Lee did not speak or respond throughout Tae’s visit.

This is not the first time that a Democratic Party lawmaker has launched verbal attacks against Tae and Rep. Ji Seong-ho, another North Korea escapee-turned-lawmaker with the ruling party.

Rep. Jung Chung-rae, who sits on the Democratic Party’s top decision-making committee, said during the Assembly’s Feb. 26 plenary session that Tae “still doesn’t seem to have adjusted to life in South Korea,” in an apparent slight at the lawmaker.

Rep. Youn Kun-young, who served as a senior secretary for former President Moon Jae-in, said in a media interview a month after the general election in 2020 that it was “regrettable” that two defectors from North Korea were elected into the Assembly. He said that defectors having access to confidential information at the Assembly was “worrying,” suggesting that the two lawmakers -- Tae and Ji -- might be more liable to breach confidentiality because they are from the North.