TORONTO— The former bodyguard of then-North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il, says he fears for his life if he is deported to South Korea, after being denied asylum in Canada.
Kim Jong Il served from 1994 until his death in 2011, he was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Un.
Kim’s former bodyguard, Lee Young-guk, 57, fled from North Korea in 2000 to the South Korean capital of Seoul. He arrived in Toronto, Canada in 2016 with his wife and two kids, seeking asylum.
Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board denied his asylum claim in a decision released on July 31. Their justification for this was that Lee tried to distance himself from the cruelty of the regime and downplayed his role as a military adviser under Kim’s dictatorship.
Brenda Lloyd, an asylum adjudicator who denied Lee’s request, said “There is no serious possibility that [Lee] would be persecuted or would be subjected, on a balance of probabilities, to a danger of torture or to a risk to life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment in South Korea.”
On Tuesday, September 2, Lee told Toronto Star: “(The regime) tried to kidnap me when I was in South Korea. If Canada returns me there, I’m a dead man.”
According to Lee, he began working as Kim’s bodyguard in 1978. Ten years later, he became a military adviser from 1988 to 1991. He then took a break to study in university before returning to the military department in 1994. Lee says he tried to escape before 2000, and that he was captured and sent to labour camp for five years.
He stated: “In the Yodok concentration camp, in order to survive, to get more food, I volunteered to carry and bury deceased inmates in the mountains. People would ask each other, that they’re buried with a piece of note in a medicine bottle containing their personal identity details. I personally buried over 300 bodies.”
“In a dictatorial system, if you don’t follow what the government tells you to do, your whole family and you get punished and destroyed,” added Lee, he also said he would like to appeal the asylum decision.
Lee has written two books, one of which was I Was Kim Jong Il’s Bodyguard.