Kim Jong-un Appeals to Defectors: ‘Come Back’By: Bennett Rieser - August 19, 2013
A Reuters report published Sunday evening has an interesting tale of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, who is making it his mission to return defectors to their North Korean home. Far from the expected brutal tactics from the regime, Kim has promised that returning defectors will not be harmed but rewarded, and supposedly nobody gets sent to prison camps.
Recent televised press conferences from the nation have included a series of defectors who have returned, apologizing for ever leaving and regretting how loveless South Korea was to live in. The policy is a marked diversion from Kim Jong-il’s, who took harsh actions against perceived defectors who would spin capitalist tales of wealth and success.
Defectors in South Korea are getting phone calls from their loved ones in the North, and most of the calls sound the same. One defector told Reuters that “My mother said, ‘if you have money, come back. General Kim Jong-un will treat you well…’ Other defectors are getting that kind of phone call.”
A group of nine defectors was recently reported being sent back to North Korea from Laos after trying to travel through China on their way to South Korea. A UN diplomat acting out of Pyongyang has said that those specific defectors “have been quite well treated since they have been back here,” and an Amnesty International official confirms that none of them have been harmed.
The idea does seem a bit far fetched, and some experts have gone as far to suggest that the effort is directed to make South Korea sound unappealing, with defectors in Seoul insisting that the North’s version of life in the South is pure propaganda, and in spite of supposed efforts to show amnesty to defectors, the nation still saturates its prison camps with defectors and their loved ones.
The UN diplomat also confirmed that “when defectors come back they are not all trucked to prison. What can happen is they are put on TV … for propaganda,” and with good reason on the part of the regime. A research fellow with the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, Cho Jung-hyun, spoke of “rumors that the regime will annihilate three generations (of one family) or that border guards will shoot to kill if anyone is caught crossing the river… On the other hand, under what’s called ‘benevolent politics,’ the regime keeps sending out a message of embracing those who left in tough times without punishment.” It’s a mixed message, indeed.