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A Mini-Interview with Dr. Oh Kil Nam

January 6, 2012

The following interview appeared on page 11 in the November 2011 issue of NK Vision. Translation courtesy of NKnet volunteer Natalie Grant.

Nov. 2011 NK Vision cover - Dr. Oh Kil Nam participates in a rally. Various student groups organized this and other events on behalf of his family.

You don’t appear to be in good health. How are you these days?

I go back and forth between good and bad. I have high blood pressure and I’m taking medicine for diabetes. These days writing is aggravating and difficult. Going anywhere is the same. But the fortuneteller tells me I’m going to live to be 90. I’m going to live to see my family again with my own eyes.

You’ve said you often see your family in your dreams.

I often drink at night. If I drink and then fall asleep I dream a lot, mostly nightmares. My wife and Hye Won, and Gyu Won are crying out from the valley of death. I also have had many dreams of meeting my children again. Lately I don’t see my family in my dreams, and sometimes I think they might be dead. Kang Chul Hwan, president of the North Korea Strategy Center, was also in a prison camp and then came to South Korea and became a sharp, well-groomed gentleman. If my children came to South Korea they could become pretty, gentle ladies within about 5 years. I just sincerely pray that they are alive. If I had one wish it would be to wipe my children’s tears and stroke their heads.

You must be very concerned about your family’s health.

According to the refugees who have come from the prison camp my wife is in very bad condition. Just by looking at the photo you can tell she is extremely thin. She was sickly even when we were in Germany. She needs to rest but where in North Korea can you take it easy? Without proper meals her condition will worsen. Now Hye Won and Gyu Won are adults over 30, but I can’t remember them as anything but children of 7 and 9.

Dr. Oh Kil Nam at a recent event. His sash reads, "Save the Daughter of Tongyeong."

Since you entered this country in 1992 you’ve been speaking out for your family’s rescue. However, at that time you weren’t able to catch the public’s interest and now suddenly this year you’ve begun to draw the attention of many people. What do you think about that?

In the past I wrote many articles asking for my family to be rescued. Even so, nobody paid any attention. It went on like that until Kim Young Sam’s government came into power. At that time Deputy Prime Minister Han Won Sang went so far as to say to burn my book, “Premier Kim Il Sung, Please Return My Wife and Daughters.” The National Intelligence Service even took my book. But now my wife is called “The Daughter of Tongyeong” and even “The Daughter of the Nation.” It’s something I never could have imagined before. I just wish people could move past ideology to focus on these issues of human dignity and life as being valuable.

I know that there was a push for the exchange of long-term, unconverted political prisoners for Shin Suk Ja and her daughters.

We had arranged to exchange my family members for Lee In Mo but with this attempt everything fell apart. After that I gave up on trying to rescue my family for a while.

What kind of person do you think Yun I Sang was?

Yun I Sang had a fiery personality. He was aware of himself as a public anti-government figure, and he was bossy but at the same time, a person who sulked easily. He would say “What are you talking about” and had a way of dominating whomever he was talking to. I heard his wife Lee Su Ja opened a store in Pyongyang. I can’t understand it.

Some sources in the press have said they think your wife and daughters are in the vicinity of Pyongyang and alive, what do you think about this?

I don’t think it’s concrete information. I hope my family is alive but think it’s unsubstantiated. When it came to Japanese abductee Megumi Yokota, a national awareness of the necessity to rescue her arose across the whole of Japan. I wish that our people could do the same but I’m ashamed to make this kind of demand. I also feel that I can’t burden the government.

See Related NK Vision Article:
The Surprisingly Long History of the Campaign to Rescue the “Daughter of Tongyeong” Shin Suk Ja and Her Daughters

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