SEOUL, South Korea — Feb 13, 2018, 6:13 AM ET

North Korean defector at State of Union speech touts Trump

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The North Korean defector singled out by President Donald Trump as a living example of the North's atrocities said Tuesday that Trump had set a milestone in international efforts to improve North Korea's human rights situation when he invited him and other defectors to his office.

Trump invited Ji Seong-ho to sit in the gallery with the first lady during his State of the Union address last month. Legislators cheered as Trump introduced Ji, and the 35-year-old triumphantly waved the crutches he had used to escape North Korea after a train ran over his limbs.

Trump later invited the North Korean defectors to meet with him at the White House. He described them as witnesses "to the ominous nature" of the North Korean regime.

Ji said Trump's gesture raised international awareness of their fight to escape the North, as well as grim situations facing other North Koreans.

"I have launched hundreds of campaigns and activities to let people know about the human rights situation in North Korea, but President Trump's address has marked a milestone in North Korea's human rights," he said during an interview with The Associated Press and two South Korean media outlets.

Ji said he found Trump's efforts to improve human rights conditions in the North sincere.

"When he gave me a hug, I felt the warmth and his sincerity toward North Korean human rights issues," he said.

An outspoken critic of Pyongyang, Ji drew the North's ire. Earlier Tuesday, North Korea's U.N. mission called him "human scum" and Trump's invitation of the defector to the State of the Union address "desperate attempts" to keep up "its 'human rights' racket" against the country.

Since the State of the Union address, the two Koreas have moved toward reconciliation, with Pyongyang sending a large group of athletes and cheerleaders to the Olympics in the South.

North Korea also sent leader Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, who sat alongside dignitaries during the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. She also attended a lunch with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and extended an invitation from her brother for Moon to visit Pyongyang for a summit in the near future.

During her three-day visit, Kim fascinated South Koreans with her relaxed manner and gentle smile, and was touted by global media for scoring a diplomatic gold.

But Ji, now a South Korean citizen, said Kim should have apologized to South Korean citizens and North Korean defectors living in the South.

"I thought she was too arrogant. She shouldn't be walking around like that holding her head high," Ji said. "I wish we could get apologies from North Korea for the pains they caused to me and other defectors."

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  • Holly II

    "During her three-day visit, Kim fascinated South Koreans with her relaxed manner and gentle smile, and was touted by global media for scoring a diplomatic gold."

    Lol!! Riiiiight.

  • bloggette

    Compared to Kim Jung Un I suppose Trump looks like an improvement, but its like deciding between a meal that makes you throw up and one that poisons you.

  • Terry Stein

    Maybe somebody should remind him how Trump praised the communist leader. Then again, somebody should remind him that we are often aware that defectors are also plants by the NK authorities. If he thinks we want another dictator like the one he "fled" he's got another thing coming.

  • Optimist-2618173

    That's a bit strange, given Trump's admiration for Kim Jong Un as a "pretty smart cookie" whom he'd be "honored to meet." Trump's own words, not mine.

  • b rubble

    He used Donald as a measuring stick to compare to Kim. Not much of an accomplishment there Donald.

  • Freethinkingpublic

    When he hugged me I felt the warmth of his sincerity, oddly when I left the stage I could no longer find my keys or my wallet.

  • Chuck

    You are a Pawn and was used as such. You were a photo op. To try to convince otherwise is a waste of air.

  • Kansasgirl52

    It's a disgrace how the Main Stream media - yes you too ABC, NBC and CNN have fawned over Kim Jong Un's sister while criticizing our Vice President. I appreciate that Vice President Pence was not a hypocrite. It's perfectly fine to be rude to a representative of a regime that brutalizes, starves and tortures its citizens while it advances its nuclear capabilities in an effort to annihilate the world.

  • JuPMod

    We'll see how far this 'reconciliation' goes after the Olympics. NK will not change its government, and SK will not want to join NK's regime. Everyone already knows how bad things are in NK, just unless people want to go to war with NK, there is nothing anyone can do to change things.

  • Juggles

    If this North Korean defector felt that Trump has helped his cause I think he would be a better judge of that then I would be so I will give credit where credit is due.... Sounds like Trump's invitation has helped shine a light on something that desperately needs attention.

  • Thomas Robinson

    I am so sorry for the few who can not get through their own pride and have to turn this in an attempt to discredit the President.