Learn More About the North Korea Defector Honored During The State Of The Union

It's worth digging into Ji Seong-ho's story.

During last night’s State of the Union address, President Trump honored a special guest in the gallery: North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho. It proved to be one of the most powerful moments during the 1-hour-and-20-minute-long speech. If you don’t know about Seong-ho’s story, it’s worth digging into.

Here's some background

Growing up under North Korea's grueling famine in the '90s, Ji and his siblings were in constant pain from hunger.

"One day, he tried to steal coal from a railroad car to barter for a few scraps of food," Trump explained during the State of the Union. "In the process, he passed out on the train tracks, exhausted from hunger. He woke up as a train ran over his limbs."

He survived, but lost his leg in the process.

"Later, he was tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a brief visit to China," Trump continued. "His tormentors wanted to know if he had met any Christians. He had -- and he resolved to be free."

Ji trekked thousands of miles on crutches across China and Southeast Asia to escape his homeland.Ji now lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he helps other defectors like himself. He studies law at Dongguk University and serves as the president of Now Action and Unity for Human Rights, a position that allows him to broadcast into North Korea "what the regime fears the most — the truth,” Trump said.

"No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea," added President Trump.

Today, Seong-ho works as an activist to help and inspire other defectors. Here’s more:


Nearly a decade after he escaped North Korea with his brother, the full-time activist lives in Seoul, where he uses radio to help bolster resistance to Kim’s regime.

Each week his programmes are broadcast into North Korea between midnight and 3am, when his team believes Pyongyang’s censors block fewer signals.

“Everyone is entitled to freedom but in North Korea nobody except for Kim Jong-un has freedom,” he says. “It’s a society where you can get executed for saying one thing wrong – even if you’re one of the elites.”

One of Ji’s radio programmes – called Victorious Youth – tells its listeners in North Korea about South Korean youth and the steps taken towards reunification.

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