One of the most powerful moments during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday unfolded when Trump shared North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho’s harrowing story of struggle and survival at the hands of an ever-brutal regime.
Trump, who said that Seong-ho is a first-hand witness to North Korea’s “ominous nature,” explained that the man was a starving youth in North Korea back in 1996 when he was so desperate for food that he attempted to steal coal from a railroad car in an effort to find something that he could barter for scraps.
Exhausted and with no nourishment, Seong-ho passed out on train tracks only to wake up as a locomotive was running him over. What happened next is even more unimaginable, as Seong-ho underwent unthinkable surgeries without anything to temper the pain.
“He then endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain,” Trump explained. “His brother and sister gave what little food they had to help him recover and ate dirt themselves — permanently stunting their own growth.”
That wasn’t the end of Seong-ho’s plight, though, as he was later tortured by North Korean authorities, who demanded to know if Seong-ho had met any Christians while he was abroad on a quick trip to China.
In the end, Seong-ho thirsted for freedom, which he and his family were eventually able to achieve. Tragically, though, his father didn’t escape the brutality of the North Korean regime.
“Seong-ho traveled thousands of miles on crutches across China and Southeast Asia to freedom. Most of his family followed,” Trump said. “His father was caught trying to escape, and was tortured to death.”
Trump said that Seong-ho now lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he works diligently to help others facing horrific conditions in North Korea. He broadcasts the truth into North Korea and works to rescue others looking to escape.
One of the most incredible moments during Trump’s speech, though, came when the president turned directly to Seong-Jo and noted that Seong-Jo still keeps the crutches that he used to escape to freedom to remind himself of just how far he has come.
Seong-Jo stood up and lifted his crutches into the air and the crowd became overtaken by emotion.
“Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all,” Trump said. “Seong-ho’s story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom.”