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Posted : 2013-12-24 15:56
Updated : 2013-12-24 15:56

More N. Korean defectors going back

By Chung Min-uck

More North Korean defectors are returning to their reclusive homeland, causing embarrassment for the South Korean government.

This trend could create a negative impression about living conditions here in the minds of the North Korean public, dampening their desire to seek alternatives to the dictatorial and hereditary leadership of Kim Jong-un.

Last week, North Korean media released an interview with a woman who returned home after defecting to South Korea in which she expressed contempt for her two-year stay here.

The Ministry of Unification, in charge of handling inter-Korean policies, confirmed that 64-year-old Choi was a former defector who arrived here in 2011 but left earlier this month.

Choi stated in the interview that the minute she stepped foot in the South she was treated as "subhuman" and that South Korea is a "cold-blooded" society that doesn't have any sense of human affection. She also accused the Seoul government of engaging in criminal activities such as kidnapping and other human rights violations.

This latest is the fifth interview of a defector who returned North by Pyongyang's media this year.

A total of 13 such interviews have been broadcast by North Korean media.

According to data provided by the unification ministry, of 25,000 North Korean defectors known to be here, around 800 of them are currently unaccounted for.

Insiders say they have either fled to China or countries in Southeast Asia, intending to return to the North.

Besides the well-known route of passing through third nations, some defectors attempt to return directly from South Korea.

Earlier this month, police arrested a 55-year-old defector surnamed Kim who allegedly tried to re-enter the North via Incheon Port, the closest harbor to the North.

Pyongyang uses former defectors as propaganda to highlight the purported superiority of its socialist system over that in the South. Seoul has come under criticism for not adequately looking after defectors in a proper manner.

Many defectors become disenchanted with their lives in the South and demanded more action to be taken by the Seoul government.

Experts say the reason behind the increasing number of North Koreans behaving this way is the fact that defectors have a hard time adapting and settling in the South.

Reports say the government has been slowly cutting down the standard amount of money provided for defectors when they initially come here, while increasing the incentive money provided when they become ready to be assimilated into the South Korean society through employment or earning state-registered licenses.

Experts say defectors, especially the elderly, are finding the incentive system challenging because many of them are not mentally or physically fit to satisfy the requirements.

"It is hard to point out a single reason behind North Korean defectors who return home," said a government official, Monday. "Government cannot resolve all the problems but will try hard to supplement the current system for them to better settle in here."

Some pointed to the government's structural inefficiency in tackling the issue.

"Too many government bodies including the unification ministry, the National Intelligence Service and the Police Agency are taking part in supporting the defectors, resulting in inefficiency," said Rep. Moon Dae-sung, a member of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. "There must be a single ministry in charge of the whole process."


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