Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the ruling Saenuri Party speaks at the National Assembly after a news conference to disclose that now freed activist Kim Young-hwan was tortured with electric shocks while held at the Chinese detention center. / Yonhap
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the ruling Saenuri Party disclosed Friday that Kim Young-hwan, freed last week after 114 days in a detention center in China, was tortured with electric shocks during his internment, citing Kim as his source.
The reported human rights abuses of Kim and three other Korean activists while in China have become a touchy diplomatic issue that will test Sino-Korean relations.
“Kim confirmed that the Chinese authorities tortured him with electric shocks,” Rep. Ha, who is close to the human rights activist, said during a press conference held at the National Assembly.
“Kim told me that he screamed because the electric shock torture was so painful and later he learned that one of the three other Koreans, held in a separate interrogation room, heard his screams.”
Kim, a 49-year-old human rights activist, was also quoted as saying that he had gone through other types of torture, too. “But I didn’t ask him to say what they were because I was afraid that forcing him to detail the ordeals he went through would cause him anguish,” Rep. Ha said.
Speaking at the meeting with the members of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, Minister Kim Sung-hwan said the foreign ministry will urge China to conduct a thorough reinvestigation into the allegations.
“South Korea relayed the information it obtained from the freed activist to the Chinese government. And China answered that it will consult the related ministry,” the foreign minister said.
During the meeting with the National Intelligence Service held after activist Kim returned to Seoul last week, he was quoted as having given a full account of his experiences in China.
It is inevitable that the foreign ministry will face criticism because it allegedly attempted to downplay the abuses of human rights committed by its nationals.
The foreign ministry said it first learned that Kim was abused at the Chinese detention center in the city of Dandong, close to North Korea’s border, on June 11 when a South Korean consul met Kim for interview.
Immediately after this, the ministry said it requested China to check whether Kim’s claims were true. China was initially quoted as denying the allegation.
Later it checked with China again whether there were any violations of the four Koreans’ human rights again after listening to Kim after he arrived in Seoul last week. China has yet to respond to this second request.
Human rights activists here claim the ministry is careless because it didn’t recognize that Kim had undergone torture in China when a Korean consul met him for interview in April.
하태경 새누리당 의원은 금요일 김영환씨와의 대화내용을 바탕으로 김씨가 중국에 구금당했을 당시 전기고문을 포함한 각종 고문을 당했다고 기자회견을 통해 밝혔다.
김씨 주장이 사실로 판명될 경우 중국에 의한 김씨 등 한국 인권운동가들에 대한 고문은 중국이 껄끄러워하는 인권문제가 한중간 외교문제로 비화될 수도 있음을 시사하는 대목이다.
하태경의원은 김씨가 전기고문을 당하며 고통스러워하는 비명소리를 다른 방에서 들었다는 사람이 있다고 덧붙였다.
한편 국회 외교통상위에 출석한 김성환 외교장관은 이문제에 대해 중국측에 재조사할 것을 촉구하겠다고 답변했다.