People Power Party National Assemblyman, Ji Seongho
We are now the true protagonists of unification, ‘Unification Citizens’
10 years ago, a young college student studying law with a dream and passion was introduced in the 42nd issue of ‘Dongposarang (loving compatriots)’. That student from back then, Ji Seongho, is now actively serving as a National Assemblyman of South Korea. He happily greeted the reporter who came to the National Assembly Hall to inquire about his time until now and his hopes and aspirations for the future.
Assemblyman Ji Seongho lost his left arm and leg in a train accident when he was 16, and depended on his prosthetic arm and leg to study. He had a dream to help North Korean refugees by studying law. He served as the representative of ‘NAUH’, a North Korea human rights organization, during his college days, and upon graduating university he continued his studies in law at a graduate level.
The miraculous past 10 years
He recalled that there were many miraculous events up until then. In January 2018, he was invited to then US President Trump’s New Year’s state address and shared a message on North Korean human rights with the US Congress. In 2020, he was nominated as the proportional representative (비례대표)of the Future Korea Party (currently People Power Party) and was elected into the 21st National Assembly, where he is currently conducting legislative activities. “In the interview 10 years ago, I said that I wanted to study law to help North Korean refugees in difficult situations, and to find myself actually being a National Assemblyman and doing this work is just surprising and I’m very grateful for it.”
Last May 21st, he shared a conversation with US President Biden at the official dinner during the Korea-US Summit. He’s surprised to have met and been greatly encouraged by meeting four former and current US Presidents over the past 10 years. “I feel the rewards of acting to save North Korean refugees and to advance North Korean human rights. As someone who’s experienced both North and South Korean societies, I’m pouring all my efforts into helping the citizens of both being able to understand and embrace one another.”
Small unification through North Korean refugees’ stable settlement
As someone who emphasizes that helping North Korean refugees to settle well in South Korean society is the way to achieve small unification within us, he uses his office as a ‘North Korean refugee resident rights and interests center’ to settle civil complaints and have legal consultations. Last year, he even received the National Assemblyman Award (의정대상) for his hard work in amending the related laws for North Korean refugees who have lived abroad for over 10 years to also be able to receive settlement aid.
Assemblyman Ji said that as he saw North Korean refugees take center stage during the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony last May 10th, he felt that expectations would grow for North Korean refugees to be able to act as main protagonists, too. “I wish for all North Korean refugees to be protagonists in making new history. I think we were able to come to where we are today because of the sacrifices those who came before us made, along with the sweat and tears poured out by our colleagues.”
He believes that when North Korean refugees settle well and reach out to neighbors in difficulty, it makes people who weren’t interested in unification become more interested in it. “For the world we want to live in to come, there’s yet more to do than what we’ve already done. But I’m confident that what we’ve done until now, all the sweat and tears we’ve poured out, is not a waste. I hope for North Korean refugees to grow as main actors in our society, serving as bridges between North and South Korea, taking on the call as ‘Unification Citizens’.