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North Korean journalist wins human rights award

The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy is honouring exiled North Korean journalist Kim Seong-Min with its 2009 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award. Seong-Min is the founder and director of Free North Korea Radio and is being recognised for his "courageous defiance" of the North Korean regime.

The award is a show of support for Kim Seong-Min's ongoing effort to provide an independent source of news to North Koreans. He served in the North Korean army for 10 years, and the first time he attempted to leave the country, he was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death. As he was being taken to the execution site, he jumped off a moving train. In 1999, he defected to South Korea. Free North Korea Radio was started in 2004.

The North Korean regime forbids any independent media and does not allow Internet use, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The only way to get alternative information to North Korea is by radio broadcasts. For example, Radio Free Chosun (RFC) in Soeul has a program that analyses textbooks, revealing how the North Korean regime has distorted history and information. "We urge the international community to be much more supportive of the North Korean exile journalists who use radio stations to defy the relentless censorship imposed by Kim Jong-il."

Kim Seong-Min will be given the award at a ceremony in Taipei on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. The award includes a US$100,000 grant to support Free North Korea Radio.

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