Global Hero Ji Seong-ho

Ji Seong-ho (born 1982) is a North Korean defector who lives in South Korea, where he works to raise awareness about the situation in North Korea and to help fellow defectors. He was badly injured by a train but managed to escape North Korea.

Ji’s mother and sister defected from North Korea in 2004. In 2006, Ji and his brother escaped from the North, crossing the Tumen River into China. Ji nearly drowned in the river. After the crossing, Ji insisted that his brother leave him behind, lest his disability result in capture for both of them. With the aid of religious groups and others, Ji managed to make his way across China. He was ultimately reunited with his brother in South Korea. He left the North “because (he) was in search of freedom. In more simple terms, (he) wanted to be treated as a human.”

After settling in South Korea, Ji converted to Christianity and founded the organization Now, Action, Unity, Human Rights (NAUH) and has initiated various projects to help North Koreans who are still in the North as well as those who have escaped to the South.

Ji has stated in an interview that “I think that freedom means being able to do what you want without harming others”. “Freedom isn’t something given by the government. I think it is a God-given right, and you are born with this right as a human being….I only had a vague understanding of what freedom meant when I was back in North Korea….When I thought about freedom or rights, I thought it was a concept that was given under the great leader. Everything was subordinate to the great leader of North Korea.”

December 2014 articles in the British press cited Ji and other defectors to the effect that North Korea was “systematically purging its disabled population by making them disappear from public sight, subjecting them to chemical weapons tests and castrating them”. Ji said that the regime felt “humiliated” by disabled people and that “babies with mental and physical disabilities are routinely snatched from hospitals and left to suffer ‘indescribable things’ until they die.” Ji stated: “The regime proclaims: ‘There are no people with disabilities under the Kims’ rule’ and ‘everyone is equal and living well’…. And while that propaganda is going on, disabled children are being taken away, suffering indescribable things and dying.” He said that two other defectors had “told him of a village in a remote mountain region that had been effectively turned into an asylum to house people with dwarfism”. The male dwarfs, Ji stated, “were castrated so they would become extinct. There’s no-one left there by now.”

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