Returned N.Korea defector struggled to resettle in South, lived meagre life By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A common view of the North Korean guard posts, in this image taken from the highest of the Aegibong Peak Observatory, south of the demilitarised zone (DMZ), separating the 2 Koreas in Gimpo, South Korea, October 5, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji


By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – A former North Korean defector who made a dangerous and uncommon cross-border return residence final week had struggled in South Korea, officers and media reviews mentioned on Tuesday, sparking contemporary debate over how such defectors are handled in their new lives.


South Korea’s army recognized the person who crossed the closely armed Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the 2 Koreas on Saturday as a North Korean who defected to the South in an analogous space simply over a 12 months in the past.

The man’s plight shed new mild on the lives of re-defectors and raised questions on whether or not they had acquired sufficient assist after making the harmful journey from the impoverished, tightly managed North to the rich, democratic South.

The re-defector was in his 30s and making a poor dwelling whereas working as a janitor, a army official mentioned.

“I might say he was categorized as decrease class, barely scraping a dwelling,” the official mentioned, declining to elaborate citing privateness considerations.


Officials, who mentioned they noticed little danger of the person being a North Korean spy, have launched an inquiry into how he evaded guards regardless of being caught on surveillance cameras hours earlier than crossing the border.

North Korean officers haven’t commented on the incident and state media haven’t reported it.


South Korea’s Yonhap information company reported police in the northern Seoul district of Nowon who supplied security safety and different care to him raised considerations in June over his potential re-defection, however no motion was taken due to an absence of concrete proof.


Police declined to remark. An official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry dealing with cross-border affairs mentioned on Tuesday the re-defector had acquired authorities assist for private security, housing, medical remedy and employment.

The man had little interplay with neighbours, and was seen throwing away his belongings a day earlier than he crossed the border, Yonhap reported.

“He was taking out a mattress and bedding to rubbish dumps on that morning, and it was unusual as a result of they had been all too new,” a neighbour was quoted by Yonhap as saying. “I thought of asking him to give it to us, however ended up not doing that, as a result of we have by no means mentioned hello to one another.”

As of September, round 33,800 North Koreans had resettled in South Korea, daring an extended, dangerous journey – normally through China – in pursuit of a brand new life whereas fleeing poverty and oppression at residence.

Since 2012, solely 30 defectors are confirmed to have returned to the North, in accordance to the Unification Ministry. But defectors and activists say there could possibly be many extra unknown instances amongst those that struggled to adapt to life in the South.

About 56% of defectors are categorised as low earnings, in accordance to ministry knowledge submitted to defector-turned-lawmaker Ji Seong-ho. Nearly 25% are in the bottom bracket topic to nationwide primary livelihood subsidies, six occasions the ratio of the overall inhabitants.

In a survey launched final month by the Database Center For North Korean Human Rights and NK Social Research in Seoul, round 18% of 407 defectors polled mentioned they had been prepared to return to the North, most of them citing nostalgia.

“There’s a fancy vary of things together with eager for households left in the North, and emotional and financial difficulties that emerge whereas resettling,” the Unification Ministry official mentioned, vowing to study coverage and enhance assist for defectors.

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