North-Korean-defector-seeks-to bring-justice-to-ex-boss-in-US
North Korean defector Heo Gang-il, R, speaks at a YouTube channel, named Change North Korea. Before being sentenced to a one-year prison term for assault and confinement in South Korea, he fled to the United States. Photo captured from YouTube

Kim hopes to bring her former manager back to Korea

A North Korean defector in her early 30s, surnamed Kim, seeks to bring justice to her former boss who fled to the United States before being convicted in a South Korean court.

In recent interviews, Kim said that her former manager, named Heo Kang-il, attacked and confined her when she worked at a North Korean restaurant in China in the mid-2010s.

Headed by manager Heo, a total of 12 North Korean waitresses, including Kim, came to South Korea as refugees in 2016, to win much media attention across the globe.

Kim said that Heo had battered her even after arriving in Seoul at the country’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service.

“I filed a lawsuit in 2018 against Heo, and a Seoul court sentenced him to one year in prison in 2021 for assault and confinement. However, he fled to the United States during the trial,” said Kim who asked not to be named.

Kim also alleged that she had been sexually molested by Heo. She also contended that Heo had tried to force her into prostitution. The court did not accept such claims for lack of evidence, though.

“As far as I know, Heo even drugged a restaurant waitress in China to force prostitution and filmed the procedures to threaten her later.”

Heo moved to the United States in March 2019 and now runs a YouTube channel in Chicago, dubbed Change North Korea, which has more than 50,000 subscribers.

Heo is unlikely to return to South Korea on his own in consideration of his comments just after the trial in 2021.

“I worked as a spy for South Korea for two years. Because my identity was disclosed, I had to come to South Korea,” Heo said. “Instead of praising me, the Moon Jae-in administration made me a criminal.”

In 2021, former President Moon Jae-in was heading the country.

Kim has asked the South Korean authorities to do something to seek justice.

“After the trial, I kept requesting the South Korean government to bring back Heo under a bilateral extradition treaty with the United States. But it refuses to do so, noting, ‘We cannot bring him back just with the information that he is in Chicago,’” she said.

South Korea and the United States signed the extradition treaty in June 1998, which came into force in Dec. 1999 after going through various constitutional procedures.

Kevin Chung studied literature in Seoul. He is interested in various areas. He can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.