Which is more powerful, a man on crutches or a man armed with nukes?

Who could ignore the power of the visual symbolism of Ji Seong-ho, the North Korean defector holding high the crutches that carried him to freedom?

Ji was made a global celebrity during the 2018 State of Union Speech by President Donald J. Trump. His story occupies a space in the library of Liberty folklore.

Seong-ho is a powerful man, more powerful perhaps than Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s Rocket Man., as the President likes to call him.

After all, it’s not every day that we meet someone who has fought dictators with nuclear weapons and won.

Seong-ho’s story is a made-for-movies tale of suffering, courage, determination, and at last, liberty. Born in NOKO, his life was characterized by near starvation. He and his family lived off grass and occasional rats, which were considered a treat.

While gathering coal from trains, Ho lost consciousness and fell between two cars. When he regained consciousness, he discovered his leg was nearly severed by the moving train and he was bleeding uncontrollably. “Three of my fingers on my left hand had been sheared off,” he later recounted.

Without the benefit of any anesthetic, Ji underwent a four and a half hour operation to remove his leg. He later told the story as follows:

The doctors were thinking whether they should let me die or if it was worth it to operate. My mom was pleading and crying, so they decided to operate. On the operating table, I could feel everything that was being done to my body. I was screaming. I felt the saw cutting into the bone of my leg, and the scalpel through my flesh. Every time I passed out from the pain the surgeon would slap my face to keep me awake. The simplest thing to do was cut off everything. They didn’t try to save my remaining two fingers, they just cut off my hand.   – Ji Seong-ho

For nearly a year, Ji was nursed back to health by his father. In 2006, Ji and his brother made a decision to escape from North Korea. While crossing the Tumen River, Ji nearly drowned. He finally made his way across China with the help of others, where he was reunited with his brother in South Korea.

Sometime later Ji’s father tried to cross into China. He was caught and ultimately died from being tortured

Later, Ji became a Christian and founded an organization to help other North Koreans.

When Ji stood during the State of the Union speech and held up the same crutches he used to escape the tyranny of North Korea’s communist government, I wondered how a person could command such strength. Ji answered my question, by stating,

Freedom isn’t something given by the government. I think it is a God-given right, and you are born with this right as a human being….I only had a vague understanding of what freedom meant when I was back in North Korea….When I thought about freedom or rights, I thought it was a concept that was given under the great leader. Everything was subordinate to the great leader of North Korea.  – Ji Seong-ho

The great symbolism of Ji’s crutches stands as another icon of liberty, and his life story proves again that all men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.


Photo: By The White House from Washington, DC – State of the Union, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66015673