Defector arrested after 2nd arrival

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Defector arrested after 2nd arrival

A disgruntled North Korean defector, who struggled to adjust to the competitive life in the South, decided to return to North Korea. But not long after his return to the Communist state, Kim Kwang-ho apparently realized that life under the Stalinist regime was not to his liking either. He decided to redefect.

Over a three-year-period, Kim, 37, crossed the border between China and North Korea three times, twice in one direction and once in the other.

That may have been an unwise decision. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday that it had indicted the indecisive Kim on charges of violating national security laws by returning to his former homeland and for praising North Korea’s rulers in a press conference broadcast earlier this year in Pyongyang.

Kim made his first escape by crossing the Tumen River in August 2009 with his girlfriend and eventually arrived in Seoul three months later. The prosecutors conceded that Kim faced daunting challenges in adjusting to South Korean society, especially when the smuggler who arranged his escape tried to freeze the 13 million won ($11,960) that Kim used to pay for a lease on his lodgings here. The broker had demanded that Kim pay 1 million won for his services.

As Kim’s disgruntlement grew, he saw a televised press conference by another defector with second thoughts who had returned to Pyongyang. Thinking that the Kim Jong-un regime would welcome him back, Kim packed up his belongings in the South last October and returned to the North with his wife and infant daughter. He sought help in returning from the North Korean consulate in Shenyang, an industrial city in northeast China.

The prosecutors said that after his return to the North, Kim was questioned intensively for about two months, during which he described in detail all he knew about the South’s procedures for winnowing out North Korean spies from the stream of true defectors arriving here. He also described the facilities used by Seoul’s security agency and the daily routine of new defectors here.

On Jan. 24, Kim appeared with his wife at a broadcast press meeting organized by Pyongyang’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.

“South Korea has an immoral, lawless society filled with fraud, where money matters the most,” he said, adding that he would devote himself to making a stronger North Korea for Kim Jong-un.

But it did not take long for the couple to again become disillusioned with their lot. Sometime in June, Kim and his wife again made the trek from the North to China, where they were detained by Chinese authorities, who are often criticized for their practice of repatriating defectors back to the North, where they may face cruel punishment and even execution. The Chinese authorities did not, however, repatriate the couple, but sent them to South Korea on Aug. 13. It is not known if they arrived alone or with their daughter.

They were arrested upon their arrival at Incheon International Airport for violating the South’s national security laws. A prosecutor involved in the case said the couple was being charged for illegally returning to North Korea after having lived here.



BY KIM KI-HWAN, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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