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N.K. defector claims father sent spies here

One defector used  mobile phone to talk with relatives in South


One of the nine North Korean defectors who came here via Japan on Tuesday claimed that his father led the task of abducting South Koreans and sending them back to the South on espionage missions, a Japanese daily reported on Wednesday.

The Sankei Shimbun reported that the defector, in his 40s, stated during an investigation in Japan that his father was “in a position to lead the work, but was later purged” for an unspecified reason.

He also claimed that his grandfather was Baek Nam-woon, who headed the communist state’s parliament of the Supreme People’s Assembly from December 1967 to December 1972.

Since his father was purged, his family had made a living through squid fishing in the North’s northern region.

The defectors were found drifting in the wooden boat by the Japanese authorities following their rare escape to Japan by sea on Sept. 13. They had been investigated by the Japanese immigration authorities for three weeks, during which they expressed their wish to receive asylum in the South.

The Seoul government’s position is to handle the defection issue from a humanitarian standpoint and honor the defectors’ wishes. They are expected to stay in a temporary facility for defectors during an investigation here in Korea and be sent to a state resettlement center for social adaptation education.
Nine North Korean defectors walk toward a bus after arriving at Incheon International Airport from Japan on Tuesday. They are wearing masks and sun glasses to protect their identities. (Yonhap News)
Nine North Korean defectors walk toward a bus after arriving at Incheon International Airport from Japan on Tuesday. They are wearing masks and sun glasses to protect their identities. (Yonhap News)

The Yomiuri Shimbun, another Japanese daily, said that one of the nine defectors made international calls with a mobile phone to contact relatives who had already escaped from the North. It also said that some of them used shortwave radios to keep informed of the overall situations in the South.

It also said that the defectors abruptly changed their course toward Japan as they encountered a rainstorm en route to South Korea. It was initially thought that they drifted toward Japan.

It said that as they had already known that a four-member family defected to the South via Japan in June 2007, they prepared a compass in case they should change their course and move toward Japan.

One of the defectors said that he decided to leave the North to provide a better future for his children.

Another said that he dreamed of living in the South as he heard South Koreans can use as much electricity as necessary, while in the North even rich people have limited access to electricity.

Earlier, the Asahi Shimbun reported that one of the defectors dreamed of life in democratic South Korea after watching dramas and movies produced here.

Citing comments from Tokyo officials, the Japanese media reported that it is surprising that ordinary citizens in the tightly controlled reclusive country collect information about the outside world with radios and other tools.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tuesday that the Tokyo government obtained information on the communist state during the three-week investigation into the defectors.

“It took this much time to clearly understand (North Korean) situations. We have obtained various pieces of information (on the North),” he said.

Despite harsh punishment for those caught fleeing the country, a growing number of North Koreans ― especially those in their 20s and 30s ― have escaped to the South, indicating deepening food shortages and political and social suppression.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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