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Growing unrest among N.K. elites, signs of serial defections

Growing unrest among N.K. elites, signs of serial defections

Posted June. 12, 2023 08:06,   

Updated June. 12, 2023 08:06


There have been reports indicating that the South Korean government is closely monitoring the situation concerning the North Korean elites and the potential for a series of defections. These concerns arose after a number of North Korean diplomats attempted to defect to South Korea or seek asylum in various locations, including Vladivostok in Russia and certain European countries.

Last Sunday, a government official acknowledged the recent asylum attempts made by North Korean diplomats and others, saying, “The North Korean elite appear to be agitated. The South Korean government is closely monitoring the situation. It would be concerning for Kim Jong Un to witness the defection of those who have benefited from the North Korean system rather than those who have faced hardships.” “Unmet expectations of the North Korean elite and residents, particularly regarding economic development, have led to a sense of alienation," another official said. "Kim Jong Un is reportedly under a lot of stress because of this.”

This development appears to be linked to the mounting pressure on North Korean diplomats stationed abroad to generate foreign currency due to ongoing sanctions imposed by the international community, including the United Nations Security Council, to disrupt the flow of illicit funds into North Korea. An internal source said, “North Korea, facing economic difficulties, is exerting more pressure on its overseas missions and ambassadors. Intensified government oversight and monitoring on illicit trades with the North also had an impact.” Amidst these circumstances, it is believed that the recall of diplomats and trade representatives by North Korea has also contributed to the unrest among the North Korean elite as COVID-19 infection enters a more manageable phase. It is reported that North Koreans, who were apprehensive about returning to their home country, have started seeking escape routes to secure a better future for their children.

Amidst these developments, noteworthy measures have been taken to employ North Korean defectors in high-ranking and professional positions for one year following the launch of the Yoon Suk Yeol government. According to the coverage by The Dong-A Ilbo, at least 16 North Korean defectors, who had previously held high-ranking and professional positions in North Korea, were appointed as advisory members to committees within the Ministry of Unification or as researchers at the Institute for National Security Strategy, an affiliated research institute of the National Intelligence Service.

“Earlier this year, three individuals, including former Acting Ambassador to Italy Cho Song Gil and a diplomat who defected from North Korea, have been appointed as research members, and a former North Korean defector researcher has been invited as a guest researcher,” a senior official at the Strategy Research Institute said.

Na-Ri Shin journari@donga.com · Kwan-Seok Jang jks@donga.com