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Real-life `Pungsan dogs` deliver items to separated families

Real-life `Pungsan dogs` deliver items to separated families

Posted October. 21, 2011 03:07,   


The protagonist of “Pungsan Dog,” a South Korean film released last summer and named after a breed of hunting dog from North Korea, is a person who goes between the two Koreas via China to transport things or people.

This was partially based on a true story, as The Dong-A Ilbo learned that many Pungsans are being taken through South and North Korea and China in organized ways.

Dong-A interviewed two people in downtown Seoul Thursday –- a 64-year-old Korean man and an ethnic Korean from China in his 40s – are working as Pungsans who go in and out of the two Koreas to deliver news on families separated in the Korean War.

The Korean Chinese, who is scheduled to depart for China later this month, declined to unveil his identity because he could get “into trouble” if Beijing finds out about him.

Unlike the protagonist of the movie, who crosses the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea, the real-life Pungsans are organized in cells usually comprising four to six people each –- one in South Korea, one on the Chinese side of the border area with North Korea, one on the North Korean side of the area, and one to three members in the North. They call each codenames such as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.

“Civilians in North Korea cannot cross provincial borders without permission, so we need certain members who have natural local accents to avoid suspicion,” the Korean man said.

Cell members in North Korea are disguised as street vendors to avoid surveillance.

mck@donga.com iamsam@donga.com