North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho 'deeply moved' by standing ovation at State of the Union

Ji Seong-ho, who escaped North Korea in 2006, attended the State of the Union.

— -- Twelve years ago, Ji Seong-ho crossed the mountainous border into China using crutches to escape torture and starvation back home in North Korea.

"I was deeply moved to tears and deeply overwhelmed," Ji told ABC News through a translator in an interview at the White House press briefing room Wednesday. "I was once a beggar in North Korea and I was an amputee, and I was threatened severely by the North Korean regime and they physically tormented me."

During his State of the Union address, Trump described how, as a starving boy during North Korea's famine, Ji lost consciousness while riding a train to steal coal to barter for food. The train ran over Ji's limbs and he "endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain," losing his left hand and foot, the president said. That was over two decades ago.

Ji was later detained and tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a short trip to China. He eventually escaped, traveling "thousands of miles on crutches all across China and Southeast Asia to freedom," Trump said.

"I think I reached a point where I knew I couldn't live for any single more day," Ji told ABC News in the interview Wednesday, "And even if it means I would die by risking crossing the border, that was so worth it because I just wanted to live one single day as a genuine human being."

"I was a man with a disability in the North, but I defected the nation in search of freedom and I stood in the arena of the international community, and particularly at the invitation of the U.S. president," Ji said. "That was a moment that indicated I had personal victory toward the Kim Jong Un regime."

"I think it is surely the very wise and the right course of action that the president of the United States is taking," Ji told ABC News. "I think the U.S. president is wisest when he applies maximum pressure on the North."

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