Consequences of ignoring defectors

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Consequences of ignoring defectors


At 2 p.m. on May 5, 1983, which was Children’s Day in Korea, an air-raid drill siren unexpectedly went off. Because the citizens of Seoul were accustomed to frequent air-raid drills, most people didn’t pay attention to it. But as it turned out, it was not a drill but a real warning. Soon afterwards, the shocking news came out that a Chinese civil aircraft hijacked by unidentified armed men had made an emergency landing in Korea.

The repatriation of passengers to China was a simple matter to handle, but it was a headache to decide where to send the six hijackers, including ringleader Zhuo Zhangren. China requested that they be extradited and Taiwan asked for their political asylum. After holding them for a year, the Korean government finally expelled them to Taiwan, where they were welcomed as “patriots.”

When the memory of the incident was finally about to fade, it was reported that the six men had been summoned to court as murder suspects. Zhuo Zhangren, the main culprit in the hijacking of the civil aircraft, and his accomplices, including Jiang Hongjun, were arrested on charges of kidnapping and murdering a real estate agent in 1991. They were indicted on charges of extorting half a million Taiwanese yuan as ransom from the victim, murdering him and then disposing of the body in the mountains.

According to “Terrorism, 1992-1995” by Edward F. Mickolus and Susan L. Simmons, Zhuo Zhangren and his cohorts had failed to adapt to society. After various failed business attempts, they claimed that they were cheated by the real estate dealer they had killed. Although they maintained their innocence, claiming they had committed the crime “in protest against the unjust Taiwanese social system,” they were executed in 2001. The incident marred Taiwanese public opinion on the defector issue.

The number of North Korean defectors to the South has exceeded 20,000 and is increasing continuously. According to the “2010 White Paper on North Korean Human Rights,” published by the Korean Bar Association on Nov. 10, about 98.5 percent of defectors escaped the North and deplore the miserable living conditions there, but 54.4 percent of them are still recipients of a stipend program in the South.

It is necessary for us to help defectors adapt to and survive in the South. If we neglect them, “the tragedy of Zhuo Zhangren” will happen to us too.

*The writer is the content director at JES Entertainment.

By Song Won-seop
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