WASHINGTON - Amid nuclear tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, US President Donald Trump took the extraordinary step of honouring a North Korean defector Tuesday as he delivered his State of the Union speech before Congress.
Ji Seong-ho, who escaped from North Korea in 2006, was given a place of honour just seats away from First Lady Melania Trump, as the president told the his story to lawmakers near the end of his 80-minute speech.
Trump recounted the suffering of Seong-ho, who had a foot and a hand amputated after a North Korean train rolled over him in 1996.
Malnourished and badly disabled, he was later tortured by the regime for a short visit to neighbouring China, before escaping and walking on crutches across swathes of China and Southeast Asia in a journey to freedom.
"Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears the most: the truth," Trump said.
"He has a new leg, but Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come. Your sacrifice is an inspiration to us all."