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`3 defectors go back to N.Korea, raising returnee tally to 100`

`3 defectors go back to N.Korea, raising returnee tally to 100`

Posted July. 22, 2012 22:55,   


Three more North Korean defectors have reportedly returned to the communist country, in addition to two others who recently returned to the North and held news conferences.

There are also claims that more than 100 defectors have returned to North Korea this year alone. Their rush to go back home and the possibility of groups trying to lure defectors to return to the North are disturbing the defectors’ community in South Korea.

Park Sun-young, a former lawmaker of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party of South Korea, said Sunday that she learned that three female defectors who resettled on Jeju Island went back to the North in May.

“They entered the South within the last five years, and one of them was in her late 20s, another in her mid-30s, and the third in her early 40s,” she said.

Park said the three decided to return to the North not just because of a change of heart but because of Pyongyang’s efforts to lure back defectors who failed to adapt to South Korean society.

“They went back to the North via China after being lured by the North’s promise not to punish them for deserting their country as well as new homes in Pyongyang and new jobs,” she said. “The number of North Korean defectors who returned to the North this year is estimated to top 100.”

Another defector, Pak In Suk, was lured back to the North after being in financial trouble in the South due to a swindle. She had left her family in the North.

Jon Yong Chol, another defector who recently went back to the North, claimed in the Stalinist country that she had been instigated by a South Korean group to destroy the statue of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. Jon also had no steady job in the South.

The three who lived in Jeju are also said to have complained about difficulty living in South Korea. A former North Korean dancer who committed suicide early this month after defecting to the South is also said to have agonized over financial hardship and the North’s attempt to lure her back.

The increasing number of defectors going back to the communist state seems related to the North’s attempt to strengthen security near its border with China since February. Pyongyang is using the returnees for propaganda purposes, holding news conferences for them to highlight the “miserable” lives of defectors in the South and say they received new homes in Pyongyang.

The rise in the number of defectors going back to North Korea has led to fears that South Korea’s interrogation methodology for defectors will be leaked. North Koreans who defect to the South stay at an interrogation center for up to six months so that intelligence and police agents determine if they are genuine defectors and not spies.

If the interrogation methodology is exposed, this could be exploited by North Korean agents who attempt to enter South Korea under the guise of defectors. In addition, South Korean intelligence agents in charge of handling defectors in China and other countries could have their covers blown.

Seoul has recently found circumstantial evidence that certain defectors entered the South with specific purposes and returned to the North. Another potential problem is that with the rising number of defectors opting to go back to the North, South Koreans could feel that defectors can return to the North at any time and fuel social alienation and discrimination against defectors in the South.

Moreover, the rising number of returnees to the North could also taint South Korea’s image abroad.

A government official in Seoul said, “We believe that fewer than 10 North Korean defectors have returned to the North so far,” but added that making an official tally is difficult because the defectors returned to the North clandestinely. South Korea plans to provide professional counselors for defectors to prevent them from being pressed by the North to return to their families left behind, the official added.