3 defectors sent home are indicted

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3 defectors sent home are indicted

The prosecution indicted three of six South Koreans who defected to North Korea, but were later repatriated, on suspicion of praising the Communist regime and illegally immigrating into the reclusive state.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday announced its indictment of the three men, who defected to the North separately between 2011 and 2012 under the mistaken impression that they would be welcomed there.

The three indicted were part of a group of six South Korean citizens that North Korea returned on Oct. 25 through the border village of Panmunjom. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service immediately arrested them and launched an investigation. Officials only identified the men by their surnames and ages.

The prosecution said yesterday that before the three men defected, they were all unemployed.

Kim, 43, started a yoga studio in 2009, but the business failed. He became homeless and began posting comments on the Internet that were critical of the government.

At one point, North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, mentioned his anti-government comments in an editorial, convincing Kim that he would be hailed in the Communist country if he defected there.

Kim crossed the border on Jan. 28, 2011, between North Korea and China through the Chinese city of Dandong, in the northeast.

Once there, he read a multitude of North Korean literature, including a biography of Kim Il Sung, to study the Communist state, the prosecution said.

Jang, 42, retired from a foreign company with a branch in China and joined an online community of North Korean sympathizers, as well as the Uriminzokkiri, a website that provides propaganda from the regime.

Jang crossed the Tumen River on Nov. 17, 2011, from China. In North Korea, he watched movies and read books about the regime and submitted his essays to the authorities.

According to the prosecution, Jang believed the unification of the two Koreas would be imminent, with North Korea absorbing the South.

The third man, Hwang, 55, also suffered financial problems in the South after divorcing his wife. He saw some North Korean films and songs on the Internet and decided to cross the Amnok River in July 2012.

According to the prosecution, Hwang confessed that he mistakenly believed life in North Korea would be better than in the South.

The prosecution added that they will indict the other three South Koreans soon.

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

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