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Friday
Jun082018

Human rights groups honor victims of communism ahead of Trump-Kim summit

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump prepares for the long-awaited summit next week with the leader of one of the five communist countries left in the world, groups representing victims of communism gathered on a sunny afternoon to honor those who lost their lives under communist regimes.

“So many people were victimized. It’s a gathering to commemorate not just those killed in North Korea but all victims [of communism] around the world so of course I had to come,” said Sang Hak Park, the President of the Fighters for Free North Korea Association who flew in from Seoul in time for the Eleventh Annual Roll Call of Nations Wreath Laying Ceremony in Washington, D.C. Friday.

The ceremony, hosted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, assembled 61 groups representatives from 17 embassies, to remember the lives of “more than 100 million victims of communism,” according to the Foundation.

One by one, each group paid respect to the victims they came to honor by laying wreath around the Goddess of Democracy statue, a replica of the statue carried by the students in China's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

An estimated few hundred to several thousand university students were killed by the Chinese government troops in a pro-democracy protest at Tiananmen Square in Beijing 29 years ago.

Besides the embassies represented—including Armenia, Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland — there were several groups advocating for human rights improvement in North Korea.

“I think that North Korean human rights issue and North Korea as a state should not be seen separately,” said Grace Jo, a North Korean defector who has made the U.S. her new home. “North Korea is Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Un is North Korea."

Stressing that Trump must mention human rights issues directly, Jo said, "When [President Trump] is saying he will talk to Kim Jong Un, that is only helping North Korea as a state and maintain the dictator’s power and neglecting 2.5 million North Korean citizens.”

Both Park and Jo expressed their disappointment towards the lack of human rights issue mentioned leading up to the June 12 Trump-Kim summit.

North Korea did release three American detainees it had held captive for over a year on May 9 but President Trump has made North Korea’s total denuclearization the key condition for the summit.

He has said he "probably" would bring up human rights issues at the meeting next Tuesday.

“Human rights should always be on the table when discussing anything with North Korea,” said Naphtali Rivkin, the Foundation's communications manager. “North Korea continues to imprison its people not just in literal concentration camps in North Korea but in North Korea broadly speaking where people are not allowed to come abroad.”

North Korea holds 120,000 political prisoners captive in its labor camps not much known to the outside world, according to the George W. Bush Institute.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is a nonprofit organization authorized in 1993 by a unanimous Act of Congress by President Bill Clinton.

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