“The American people stand with you for freedom and you represent the people of North Korea, millions of which long to be free as well,” Pence told the defectors, two of whom met President Donald Trump at the White House last week.
“We’ve been inspired by your bravery. We ourselves have stood and looked across that demilitarized zone, that line across which you fled. You fled to freedom.”
Later Friday Pence arrived at the Olympic venue in Pyeongchang where he met with Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. At a leaders’ reception ahead of the Opening Ceremony, the Vice President stopped to talk to delegates at several tables but didn’t come across the North Korean delegation, according to officials traveling with him.
Trump told Ji’s harrowing tale of how his limbs were run over by a train after he collapsed on the tracks in exhaustion before enduring torture at the hands of North Korean authorities.
Ji fled through an underground network China and other countries in 2006 before arriving in South Korea. He traveled on a pair of wooden crutches he said his father had made for him. With tears in his eyes, Ji hoisted the wooden crutches that his father made, to the thunderous applause from the audience at the State of the Union.
Pence also met Ji Huron, who escaped and was repatriated to North Korea three times, where she was tortured, underwent a forced abortion and sent to a prison camp. She was released from the prison camp as part of a nationwide pardon of inmates on Kim Jung Il’s birthday, in February 2000.
Kim Hye Sook was incarcerated in a North Korean political prison camp for 28 years. When she tried to escape, she was sold into slave labor and repatriated before escaping to South Korea in 2009.
Kim told Pence, despite the images of North Koreans celebrating at the Olympic games, “we should never forget the millions of North Korean people who are struggling to survive.”
Pence also met Lee Hyeon-seo, author of the best-selling book “The Girl with Seven Names — A North Korean Defector’s Story.”
‘Stand up for the truth’
The US delegation met with the defectors on the sidelines of a visit to pay respects at the Cheonan Memorial which honors South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack by North Korea.
Pence toured a museum featuring the soldiers’ stories and examined hallowed remains of the Korean warship attacked by North Korea.
“Our objective here today is to stand with our allies,” Pence said before flying to Pyeongchang to attend the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.