A North Korean woman held in South Korea has made an emotional appeal at a United Nations human rights press conference in Seoul, asking authorities for permission to rejoin her family in the North.
Kim Ryon-hui fell ill with liver disease in 2011, after which she traveled from North Korea to neighboring China for treatment. Later, she moved on to South Korea, thinking her condition would be better there. However, upon entering South Korea she was placed by Seoul under a program for North Korean defectors, which does not allow Kim to return to the North.
“I’m a citizen of Pyongyang of the Democratic Republic of Korea … I have been forcefully detained in the South for seven years,” she pleaded tearfully on Thursday at the UN human rights conference held by Tomas Ojea Quintana, a UN special rapporteur on human rights.
Kim said Seoul had violated her human rights by preventing her to go back to her aging parents and daughter.
“A mother is someone who can’t be apart from her daughter for even a moment, but seven years just hurt too much,” she said, her voice trembling.
Kim has made several failed attempts to return to her family — including obtaining a forged passport, for which she served time in prison.
Pyongyang and Seoul have in the past made some efforts to reunite families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
Divided families are one of the main results of the conflict between the two Koreas, which are technically at war. Tens of thousands of people with their families in the divided regions are hoping to meet their relatives.