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North Korean Defectors Returning to North Korea

Posted December. 02, 2004 23:08,   


On July 11, 1996, Choi Seung-chan (37) ventured his life on an escape from North Korea. His escape, that he had crossed the Yesung River relying on an inner tube of a bicycle, became the hot topic of conversation at that time. However, now, he’s back in North Korea with his family.

In order to help his wife and children escape from North Korea, Choi went to China. However, when he found out that the conditions were unfavorable, he crossed the Duman River and re-entered North Korea on January 21, 2004. Although he turned himself in to the National Security Defense of North Korea and was investigated for several months, he reunited with his family in Gaesung, the city where he used to live before he escaped from North Korea, without much trouble.

Before escaping North Korea on 1996, Choi had performed his military duties at the 38 Airborne Brigade and had worked in a brickyard. In South Korea, he worked in the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation as assistant section chief from the May of 1997 to January, 2004. Now he works in the Gaesung Computer Center.

Choi became an object of envy among the people of Gaesung. National Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jung Il has ordered twice to “treat him nicely,” and with the money he brought back from South Korea, he is financially well off. Also, the computer skills that he learned in South Korea are being envied by the residents of Gaesung. A recent North Korean defector told that among the residents of Gaesung, there are sayings like, “Let’s go to South Korea and earn money. Then, come back to North Korea, like Choi did.”

Recently, the government of North Korea has made a guideline to pardon and welcome North Korean defectors as long as they return and turn themselves in. For that reason, reentering North Korea for North Korean defectors is becoming quite frequent.

In Choi’s case, he returned to North Korea with 50,000 U.S. dollars (about 51 million won). The North Korean government left the money at Choi’s disposal. A rumor in Gaesung says that he gave 30,000 dollars to the government, 8,000 dollars to acquaintances, and kept 12 thousand dollars for himself.

In North Korea black market’s exchange rate, 12 thousand U.S. dollars is worth about 21.6 million North Korean won. A middle-school teacher in North Korea earns three thousand North Korean won a month, and it takes 600 years without any spending to make 21.6 million North Korean won.

There is also other North Korean defector who escapes North Korea to earn money in South Korea, and then return to his family in North Korea.

Nam Soo (47•confined in April, 2004 for violation of National Security Law) entered South Korea in 1996, returned to North Korea when his business failed in 2000, and then reentered South Korea in 2003. Likewise Choi’s case, Nam Soo was also cordially received. It is told that he opened a public bath and a barbershop with the money he brought back from South Korea.

It was found out few months ago that two male and female North Korean defectors, who used to live in Seoul, have returned to North Korea, each with 40 million won and 10 million won. The number of North Korean defectors returning to North Korea is increasing.

In May 2003, a North Korean defector was arrested by the National Security Defense of North Korea when he returned to North Korea in order to introduce his wife, who he met it South Korea, to his parents in North Korea.

It is told that several North Korean defectors cross the Duman River to celebrate New Year’s Day with their families, and then return to South Korea. It implies that crossing the border between North Korea and China has become very easy.

Also, North Korean government’s appeasing attitude toward the North Korean defectors is another big reason why the North Korean defectors return. The North Korean government has changed from persecution to conciliation policy.

Most North Korean defectors remit the money they earned in South Korea to their families in North Korea. If North’s conciliation policy continues, there might be more and more North Korean defectors who choose to return to North Korea and live better off with their families.