North Korea’s state media outlet Uriminzokkiri on Monday urged South Korea to return Kim Ryon Hui, who is currently in South Korea but has announced her hopes of returning to Pyongyang, her hometown.
The South Korean Ministry of Unification on Tuesday stated that repatriating a border crosser to North Korea is impossible under the current legal system. North Koreans who cross into South Korea are considered South Korean citizens, while entry into North Korea is largely off-limits to South Koreans.
The Uriminzokkiri commentary argued that Kim was “kidnapped” in South Korea and deceived by a South Korean intelligence agent, which they say was planned by the South Korean government.
“It is horrible anti-humanitarian brutality that they kidnapped a DPRK citizen and ignore her screams calling for her return to her hometown, where her parents and children are waiting for her,” the article reads.
The South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh covered Kim’s story on July 3, which was followed by a press conference on August 3.
“I am a citizen of the DPRK, not ROK,” she told the Hankyoreh, adding that she has been detained by South Korea, rather than protected by it.
Kim said she used to work as a tailor in Pyongyang, and visited China in 2011 seeking treatment for a medical condition. Before going home, she said she decided to work at a restaurant in Shenyang for a month to make money. She said a broker approached her saying she could earn more money in South Korea and then go back to North Korea after few months.
Only later would she learn that she could not go back to North Korea.
“I couldn’t get my passport back. I decided to go to South Korea for the time being, and thought South Korea would understand my situation and return me,” she said.
She argued that she pretended to be a spy in order to be exiled from South Korea, since she couldn’t get to the North Korean embassy in China without an official passport. Her story received international attention, including a report by the New York Times.
The Uriminzokkiri editorial said this situation creates a new “divided family,” calling it despicable for South Korea to speak of the “pain of divided families.”
It also urged that the “anti-human rights criminals” at the International Criminal Court be punished, indicating their attempt to counter the controversy over human rights in North Korea.
Cho Han-bum, senior researcher from the Korea Institute for National Unification called the editorial a general response to the international pressure on the human rights issue.
“At any rate, North Korea will cooperate to have the reunions of divided families. It doesn’t have a specific meaning, it just seems like a reaction against the human rights controversy,” Cho told NK News.
Image: Eric Lafforgue
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