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Monday, 14 June 2021

NK defector goes from prison camp to ballot box

Duration: 03:26s 0 shares 5 views
NK defector goes from prison camp to ballot box
NK defector goes from prison camp to ballot box

Sixteen years after she was left to die outside a labor camp in North Korea, Jihyun Park will enter the British political history books if she wins office in local elections this May.

Lauren Anthony reports.

Jihyun Park was left to die, unremembered, outside a North Korean labor camp.

But sixteen years on, her life has taken an unexpected turn.

She's now running to be a local town councilor in England, and she's sure she's going to win.

"I’m really confident because I already fought these totalitarian evils twice." Park is a human rights activist and says she wants to repay the kindness shown by the residents of the town of Bury, an old industrial town, which has been her home since 2008.

She is standing in the May 6th election as a candidate for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party.

“We had a lot of problems because we didn't speak English.

Electricity, no gas, some letter came to us and we didn't understand.

And people (were) really nice to us, so they gave us lots of gifts, so that's why today my family is living in here.

So I want to pay back this debt of gifts to my residents." Park's tale is harrowing.

She grew up in a mountainous area of North Korea.

Hungry and desperate, she fled to China in 1998 with her younger brother - where they both fell into the hands of human traffickers.

They were separated.

Her brother was never seen again - and Park was sold to a man whose family used her as a slave.

Park then discovered she was pregnant, and, fearing arrest in a hospital with no ID or papers, she gave birth to a boy on her own.

"When my son was born, and I held him, and I cried, and also happy times because I have family now." The pair struggled on for five years before Park was captured by Chinese authorities - and sent back to North Korea without her child.

Imprisoned in a squalid labor camp, she grew seriously ill from a leg injury, and was left out in the elements to die.

Against the odds, Park regained enough strength to go back to China.

In 2005 she found her son.

"I escaped (from) North Korea again, myself human trafficking to China, because I had no money and my condition was really worse.

My only decision was I have to escape the country first.

// When I met my son I was really shocked, because (the) Chinese family members never cared about my child, so my son (was) wearing the dirty clothes and he never washed, so he looked like a street child." Park resolved to find a safe place for them to live.

She met her now-husband during a failed attempt to reach the Mongolian desert.

In 2007 a Korean pastor in Beijing put them in touch with the United Nations, which relocated the family to Britain.

Park says she joined the Conservatives because of their emphasis on family values and individual freedom.

She now spends much of her time helping other North Korean refugees adjust to British life.

Although she leads a happy life in Bury with her family, Park can't help but remember the past.

She says she doesn't know whether her brother survived, but still hopes they will be reunited one day.