A UN conference on human rights gave the floor to both defectors of North Korea and envoys from the oppressive regime. But before testimony was complete, the Pyongyang diplomats stormed out over a dispute.
US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, admonished the representatives from North Korea for their disruption to the panel discussion on Thursday.
Two defectors were scheduled to provide testimony of their lives in North Korea. The government representatives were then allowed to give a statement in response.
However, Pyongyang envoy Ri Song Chol began speaking directly after the first witness, prompting the panel moderator to ask him to stop and Power to ask for Ri's microphone to be muted.
The North Korean envoy continued speaking over the US ambassador despite her repeated calls for him to stop.
Supporters of the defectors began chanting against the Pyongyang trio, at which point they stormed out of the UN headquarters.
On his way out, Ri reportedly accused the US of "murdering innocent black people" in reference to the high-profile deaths of African American men by police in Ferguson and Baltimore.
Defector: 'This isn't just my story'
The first person to testify, Joseph Kim, told the audience of the hardship he had experienced as a child growing up under the dictatorship in North Korea.
After witnessing his father die of starvation at the age of 12, Kim saw his mother arrested for travelling to China, where she had taken his sister in hopes of giving her a better life.
"I was homeless, an orphan, a beggar," Kim said. "I no longer lived like a human being."
Kim eventually escaped to China and then to the US when he was 16.
Appealing to the UN to draw more attention to his home country, Kim emphasized: "This isn't just my story, but the story of millions of people in North Korea today."
In December, the UN Security Council voted in favor of referring Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for its human rights record.
kms/bk (AFP, dpa)