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…

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