The Current

North Korean defector to Trump: 'Don't believe Kim Jong-un'

A man who defected from North Korea has a stark warning for U.S. president Donald Trump about trusting the regime.

Defector says the U.S. president has 'nothing' to show for his summit with the North Korean leader

On Tuesday, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un agreed that North Korea will go through 'complete denuclearization' - but a North Korean defector is calling it a defeat. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Read Story Transcript

A man who defected from North Korea has a stark warning for U.S. President Donald Trump about trusting the regime.

"Don't believe Kim Jong-un. He's a murderer, and a dictator, and he's keeping his nation in slavery," said Rocky Kim, president and founder of the Canada Federation of North Korean Defectors.

Trump met with the North Korean leader in an unprecedented summit in Singapore, where they signed an agreement that included a North Korean commitment to full denuclearization.

But Rocky Kim says Trump failed by not pushing him to commit to a timeline for getting rid of nuclear weapons, calling it a "painted peace to show to the world."  

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un sign the agreement yesterday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

He also says Trump was "defeated" by the North Korean leader when he failed to push him to make human rights commitments. 

Trump said that they did discuss human rights issues briefly, and claimed that 100,000 people in North Korean gulags would be one of the great winners from this summit.

But Rocky Kim was dismissive. 

"[Trump] got nothing," he told The Current's guest host Connie Walker, "he just supported this dictatorial regime."

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a document he and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un signed following a signing ceremony during the historic summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on Tuesday. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

A harrowing journey to Canada

Rocky Kim fled the peninsula in the early 2000s, shortly after his father starved to death.

"At the time many, many people died from hunger on the street," he told Walker.

He made it to China but was caught and returned to a North Korean labour camp, where he said torture was among the "very serious human rights violations," which he witnessed, and which he says still continue to this day. 

Rocky Kim moved to Canada in 2007, where he set up his organization to help other defectors and advocates for human rights in North Korea.

"In North Korea there is no freedom of speech," he said. "There is no freedom of movement. Nothing there is a freedom."

'Only so much time to talk'

The freshly-inked agreement does lack detail, said Tina Park, a North Korea expert. 

The agreement is "not as strong as the framework under the Clinton administration," she said, but called it an important step nonetheless given the history of very public tension between the two leaders.

"The fact that we are moving towards a peace agreement and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula — however slow that process might be — is tremendous progress," she said.

Park, who is the co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, said human rights concerns are valid — but there was "only so much time to talk" at the summit. 

"The purpose of this summit was to get the North Koreans to agree on denuclearization," she said.

"Our ultimate objective is to bring North Korea out of the hermit kingdom that it has been for many decades and make sure that they abide by international norms, whether it is nuclear non-proliferation or universal human rights."

Human rights abuses will be discussed eventually, she added, but the meeting between Trump and Kim should be seen as a step in the right direction.

"There's no doubt that he is a very brutal dictator, but at the same time we do have to work with what we have, rather than wishing that he was different."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal, Willow Smith and Richard Raycraft.


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