Six sent back from North are defectors

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Six sent back from North are defectors

The six men repatriated from North Korea Friday were defectors who thought North Korea would welcome them with open arms and give them cushy lives.

They were mistaken. They were tossed in jail and finally sent home. One man strangled his wife in a failed suicide pact.

The authorities told reporters yesterday the six were divided into two types: men with family conflicts, bankruptcy or other financial problems fed up with life in the South, or pro-Pyongyang activists who posted positive comments about the North Korean regime on Web sites. The activists believed that they could be welcomed as heroes if they defected. Others believed they would have easier lives than in the South.

The authorities said they were continuing to interrogate the six men, who were whisked from public view on their return through the Demilitarized Zone on Friday. They have been identified by surnames and ages, which range from 26 to 66.

The authorities said the six men defected separately between 2009 and 2012 by crossing the frozen Tumen or Apnok rivers bordering China or jumping from a Chinese cruise ship near the border regions.

North Korea sent them to detention camps located in Onsong, Hoeryong, Sinuiju or Wonsan for 14 to 45 months.

North Korea also repatriated the remains of a South Korean woman who was married to one of the six men and defected with him, authorities said. The man, surnamed Lee, 64, told authorities the couple tried to commit suicide in a pact that went wrong.

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

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