Boomerang defectors escape again

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Boomerang defectors escape again

A family of North Korean defectors who returned to the North last year and denounced life in the South in January fled again in June and were captured by Chinese border security guards, a South Korean lawmaker said yesterday.

Ha Tae-keung, a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker and an activist for human rights in North Korea, held an emergency press briefing yesterday to seek government help for Kim Kwang-ho, his wife Kim Ok-sil, their small child and two of the wife’s siblings, who are reportedly being detained in China. They were attempting their second escape to South Korea, Ha said.

The three successfully defected to South Korea via China in August 2009. But the couple returned to North Korea in December 2012. There is still doubt as to whether the couple returned voluntarily or whether they were tricked into returning.

On Jan. 24, they appeared at a press conference reported by the official Korean Central News Agency along with their 10-month-old daughter and another return-defector named Ko Kyong-hui.

All three defectors publicly voiced their “disappointment” in life in the capitalist South.

“South Korea is a really dirty world,” Kim Kwang-ho said at the obviously stage-managed press conference. “We couldn’t live in such a violent world filled with fraud, threats, and devious plots anymore.”

After appearing at the press conference, Kim and his family were relocated from Pyongyang to North Hamgyong Province, northeast of the country, Ha said.

The family was sent to a labor camp because he said he “had a wealthy life in the South,” according to Ha.

Kim escaped to China on June 27 with his wife, daughter and his wife’s two siblings and they were caught by Chinese guards in Yanbian, northeastern China, on July 14.

Ha speculates that Kim returned to North Korea to bring out other family members remaining in the North, including the mother of his wife. The mother-in-law is not in the group held in China.

At a summit in Beijing last month, President Park Geun-hye officially asked Chinese President Xi Jinping not to repatriate North Korean defectors captured after escaping.

This is the first case of defectors being held since the summit and China’s government’s reaction to this case is being watched closely in South Korea.

“If the Kim family is repatriated to North Korea, they are highly likely to be executed or sent to a political prison,” Ha said at the press briefing.

“I urge our government to do its best to protect the Kim family,” Ha said.

South Korean Foreign Ministry Spokesman Cho Tai-young didn’t confirm the lawmaker’s allegations and only said the ministry was “taking appropriate measures.”



BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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