The Last Time A North Korean Refugee Received Presidential Prominence

The most powerful part of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address was when North Korean refugee Ji Seong-Ho raised his crutches to the thunderous applause of the representatives of the American people. Word of the event will reach the people of North Korea.

I know this, because it has happened before on a smaller scale. From The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-hwan :

On June 13, 2005, I met with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office for forty long minutes. I told the president about the plight of North Korean people, and we shared sincere opinions on how to save them. ... Since that meeting at the White House, I have received many emails from North Koreans hiding in China, all encouraging me and thanking the American president for caring about their fate. I don’t have a slightest doubt that the good news has also traveled all across the country inside North Korea giving the 23 million people long-overdue hope and encouragement. For the 200,000 political prisoners in the gulag, the news must have struck them as if they had an encounter with the Savior himself. Some inside North Korea said that this single event could wipe out years of anti-American propaganda once and for all. And in South Korea, the effects have been most visible on the youth who have been uninformed and, therefore, indifferent to the plight of their fellow Koreans in the North.

Kang Chol-hwan expressed these feelings again in an interview:

For me it was a great honor and also I think that it was helpful to all of the North Korean people and the pro-democracy movement of North Korea. It was everything beyond what I expected because it was an event that symbolized support for the North Korean people.

The US President who is the leader of the entire world, agreed to meet me in person and that gave me encouragement. It was a special event for all of us North Koreans who were watching the event. It was for the people who are still suffering in North Korea. I was told that many people were excited that I got a chance to meet President Bush because only fifty years ago people were told that the USSR was the greatest enemy. But now a person from the most oppressed country in the world had the opportunity to meet the US president in the White House. It sent a massive shock to North Korea and gave the North Korean people a ray of hope about their future.

Even though the US is far away, it was great to see a country such as the US express anger at the regime of Kin Jeong Il. It was also great to see that the US was expressing concern about the people of North Korea. The North Korean people were comforted by this. It gave strength and courage for the resistance movements and the opportunity to join forces. I heard from North Korea from my sources that my meeting with President Bush at the White House even reached the North Korean people. Although it gave the officials fears, it gave the oppressed people who are suffering hope. Until the end of 1980’s the Cold War system ruled the world. Russia and China lead the world in the communist bloc and they opposed the free world. After Russia and China collapsed from the communist bloc after the end of the 1980’s there were despotic countries that were the mutants of the Cold War era. These regimes considered themselves to be socialist regime but actually that was only by name and they were extortionist regimes that only serves the interest of few people. North Korea is one of them and Cuba, Iran, and Iraq all belong in this category. They did not function with the Cold War system and are truly evil empires like the one that Hitler created.

President Bush´s rhetoric was accurate and appropriate since he spoke about what he saw and how he judged these countries. The “Axis of Evil” described North Korea appropriately and it changed the era of global politics. It described the essence of the North Korean regime. The North Korean people thought that their regime was not good and evil. This was something that the North Korean people could not even think about nor did they have the words to express. The North Korean people were awakened when they heard the words of President Bush. It gave the message that Kim Jeong Il was truly evil. So the term “Axis of Evil” was important to the Korean people and affected the regime in a significant way.

What the leader of the free world says and does reverberates all around the globe. As Natan Sharansky told Mark Levin last May, it was Ronald Reagan's speech calling the Soviet Union the Evil Empire that inspired him — held in solitary confinement in a Gulag — and his fellow dissidents to continue to resist, and in the end triumph over Soviet Communism.

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