North Korea's "Father of Defectors"

 Park Jung-oh looks after the evening classes that take place for North Korean children [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Park Jung-oh looks after the evening classes that take place for North Korean children [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

In the first part of the Al Jazeera series, journalist Faras Ghani tells the story of Kim Yong-hwa, 64, who fled North Korea in 1988, formed the North Korean Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea in Seoul to look after those who continue to arrive and face difficulties settling in and is hence called by some as the Father of Defectors.

After fleeing in 1988 via Vietnam, being captured and jailed, fleeing again to Laos where he was captured again, Kim finally arrived in South Korea via a boat funded by a kind couple. However, after finding safety, Kim's fight for freedom and support for North Koreans only continued. 

"I founded the North Korean Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea in 2005 after an incident in Gangwon province where a female defector died in a car accident and her body was placed in the refrigerator for 20 days and not given funeral. No one wanted to deal with that.

"The Ministry of Unification gives around 200,000 Korean won ($188) as a funeral fee for each defector, but that's not adequate and extremely disrespectful because a lot of them don't have a family here. If they die, they'll die as mummies.

"I've saved almost 6,000 defectors so far and the media calls me the 'Father of Defectors'. But the job isn't done yet.

"I don't know where my family is. I heard through people that they were killed after I fled. I didn't speak to them after I fled North Korea.

Listen to the full interview here: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/defectors-life-north-korea-180216092138530.html