Sixteen years after she was left to die unremembered 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, reported Reuters.
Human rights activist Park said she wants to repay a debt of kindness shown by residents in the northern English town of Bury, her home since 2008, by becoming a councillor in the local government in the Moorside Ward of Bury, a former industrial town in northern England where she was resettled as a refugee in 2008, reported Fox News.
“When I came to the UK, many people helped: they welcomed me, they taught me English,” she told Fox News. “I want to pay back this gift.”
If elected, she believes she would be the first North Korean defector to hold political office in the West.
“I am really confident because I have already fought totalitarian evils twice, because I escaped North Korea twice,” Park, 52, told Reuters from her house adorned with the flag of England and Britain’s Union Jack.
She grew up in the mountainous North Hamgyong province of North Korea but, hungry and desperate, in 1998 Park fled with her younger brother to China where they fell into the hands of human traffickers and was sold to a Chinese man who used her for labor and sex, while her brother was never to be seen again.
“I wanted to give up my life,” she said. “My life was really slavery,” she recounted in an interview at her home.
“One day I wanted to give up my life, but I found that I was pregnant. I had changed my mind because this child was my last family member – and maybe this child would give me hope,” she said.
She hid her pregnancy and, fearing arrest in the hospital with no ID or papers, gave birth to a boy on her own.
Five years later, Park was arrested as an illegal immigrant and deported to North Korea, without her son.
“My nightmares came true,” she said. “They arrested me in front of my child. I begged, ‘Please, I want to say some words to my son.’ But they never allowed me,” reported Fox News.
Back in North Korea, she was imprisoned at a labor camp, but became seriously ill with a leg injury and was freed.
“The police said, ‘You cannot die inside the camp. You die outside anyway.’ So, they released me.”
She regained enough strength to return to China and in 2005 she found her son, who had been treated badly by her former masters.
She met her now-husband during an unsuccessful move to the Mongolian desert and in 2007 a Korean pastor in Beijing put them in touch with the United Nations, which relocated the family to Britain.
They were granted asylum in England.
“In the UK, we were a totally different nationality, different cultures, different languages, but they accepted us,” she said.
On the campaign trail in Bury where she is a candidate in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative party, Park said voters rarely seek to talk about the country of her birth and show little interest in global diplomatic tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons, reported Fox News.
Instead, they want to know what she plans to do about improving garbage disposal services.
“People chat to us about the bin collection problems, and the dirty streets, and also road safety. Everything,” she said. “And I write it down, in my notes.”
She added, “I already made my dreams here: a happy family, a happy life. And I finally found my freedoms here.
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