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Two N. Korean families cross Northern Limit Line

Posted May. 19, 2023 08:06,   

Updated May. 19, 2023 08:06


The two North Korean families who crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL) by a small fishing boat on the night of May 6 testified that they decided to defect primarily because of the worsening economic difficulties under North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime and the intensified surveillance and control of residents since the outbreak of COVID-19

According to a compilation of The Dong-A Ilbo's coverage on Thursday, after their defection, the two families from the North actively asked questions about South Korean society during joint interviews with the military, the National Intelligence Service, the Ministry of Unification, and other relevant authorities such as whether one can really earn money equivalent to the amount of work they put or can truly live freely in South Korea.

“They wanted to reaffirm that their decision to risk their lives and defect, even with their young children on board, was the right one,” said a government source.

It is reported that they have secretly watched South Korean broadcasts and admired South Korean society. They also stated that they pressed ahead with their defection after months of careful preparations. This has led to analysis suggesting that the living conditions in North Korea, such as food shortages, have significantly deteriorated to threaten the survival of its residents. Despite North Korea's strict control and surveillance measures, their decision to defect by sea through the West Sea, breaking through the strict COVID-19 border blockade, demonstrates how difficult the situation is within North Korea. Analysts also point out that the families' decision to defect directly through the West Sea must have been influenced by factors such as the increased cost of defection and the closure of the North Korea-China border due to COVID-19.

"Seoul’s emphasis on resolving North Korean human rights issues since the inauguration of the Yoon Suk Yeol government may have influenced the families' decision to defect, drawing a contrast to the previous administration,” said another government source, suggesting that after learning about the current government's North Korea policy through South Korean broadcasts, the defectors may have judged that the government would not forcibly repatriate them.

Hyo-Ju Son hjson@donga.com