The Korean citizen Kim Young Hwan has been helping North Koreans to learn the notion of democracy and human rights, using China as a base of operation, so that together they can gain the capacity to build up a civil society in North Korea.
His story reads like a espionage thriller – a tale of two Koreas, changed allegiances, torture and fear.
Once Upon a time, Kim Young Hwan was one of South Korea’s best-known student activists. During this time, in the wild 80’s, he was tortured by his own government for supporting its archenemy, North Korea- This is the same Government who protects him today.
Back in the 80s, North Korea considered Mr. Kim as such an asset that it smuggled him out of South Korea for a meeting with the North`s founder. Soon after his meeting he had a change of heart and renounced the Communist police state. Since then he has been working tireless to help North Koreans to build an underground pro-democracy movement, using the border between the North and its ally China as his base of operations.
His guerrilla tactics went well for over a decade and he educated hundreds of North Koreans about democratic values without being stopped. However, in 2012 his luck ran out. After successfully dodging his enemies for years he was finally captured by Chinese authorities and tortured for the second time in his life. The Chinese authorities wanted names and details about his compatriots, but Mr. Kim remained silent.
After four months in Chinese hands they finally expelled him and his case led to a diplomatic scuffle, with South Korea demanding that China investigate the torture accusations.
The torture of Mr Kim cast a rare light on groups that have been working secretly for years in China to spirit North Koreans out, sneak information of the world into the reclusive country and, in some cases, try to inspire revolution against the dictators who have led their countrymen to economic ruin and starvation.
Mr. Kim will be a guest speaker at the first international human rights film festival in Berlin on North Korea from November 20 – 25. There he will give unique insight into his life as one of South Korea’s most popular underground activists, share his knowledge of North Korea and spread some guerrilla sprit.