Officials in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday reported on the six South Koreans who were repatriated south by North Korea. Six men and the corpse of a woman, who was married to one of the men, were returned by Pyongyang on Friday.
In a rare turn of events, the men had been seeking better living conditions in the impoverished dictatorship to the north. All this as UN investigators heard testimony in London last week of human rights abuses suffered in North Korea from those who fled the regime. Instead, the men were detained for up to 45 months for entering the country illegally.
AP reports that over 25,000 North Koreans have fled south since the Korean War ended in the 1950’s. According to the South Korean officials, who also report continued investigations into the incident, the men believed they would live improved lives in North Korea, having suffered family trouble, business failure and having participated in pro-North Korea activities.
Seoul is looking to issue arrest warrants to the men; through the anti-North security law, South Korea can imprison defectors for up to 10 years. The men, ranging in age from 27 to 67, were questioned by North Korean authorities while detained separately for 14 to 45 months.
The woman was apparently strangled by her 65-year-old husband, who did not kill himself, as part of a suicide pact, though South Korean authorities were unable to confirm that account.
The men reported that they entered North Korea via the China border from 2009 to 2012. They were required to swim the river at the border or walk over it during the winter freeze.
Returning the defectors is an interesting turn at the end of a tumultuous spring and summer with North Korea. In August, supreme leader Kim Jong-un, issued a call for defectors to return, promising they would not be punished or sent to prison camps. Spring brought threats of nuclear war and last month, the dictatorship unexpectedly cancelled a planned reunion for war-torn families.
[Image via CIA World Factbook.]