A North Korean human rights activist defector who previously lived in South Korea has redefected to the North, state media outlet Uriminzokkiri said on Saturday.
Son Ok-soon, formerly a Christian human rights activist who also authored a Korean-language book about her difficulties in the North, used a 20-minute interview video to express regret for criticizing the DPRK system.
“Watching through the television, I realized that my fatherland changed remarkably in the past 10 years,” Son said in the video, with a noticeable South Korean accent.
“I became speechless to hear that the county provided luxury houses at Mirae Scientists Street,” she said.”This is impossible to imagine in in other countries.”
Son published a book entitled Missing the Light in June 2012 under the name of Ju Esther.
In the book – a copy of which she tore up during the interview – she wrote about her experiences during North Korea’s famine, her defection and subsequent seven years in China, including her arrest by Chinese police.
But Son used the interview to express admiration for the North Korean system, remarking about its free health and education services and lack of taxes. She also shared details about her life in South Korea, saying it was “dizzy.”
“There are so many political parties (in the South), who often fought in the middle of their meetings,” she said. “The most surprising thing was (South Korea having) the No. 1 suicide rate in the world.”
Son also criticized anti-DPRK propaganda activities, in particular led by Christian activists.
“They are involved with organizations such as National Intelligence Service or any American organizations,” she said. “They are doing so due to money.”
Since Kim Jong Un assumed leadership in late 2011, North Korea has published several videos of defectors who went back to North Korea.
But on Monday South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MoU) told NK News it was unfamiliar with Son’s case.
“There were 13 cases before, according to our statistics,” a staff member – who requested anonymity – told NK News.
“If somebody who returned North Korea came back to South, a legal procedure will follow,” the staff member added.
Park Gwang-il, president of defector organization Two for One, told NK News that Son had appeared at Christian prayer meetings on occasion.
However, other Christian human rights activists contacted by NK News on Monday said they had never heard of Son.
HARDSHIP AND ISOLATION
The president of NK Reform Radio, Kim Seung-cheol, said Monday that those who go back to North Korea often do so because of economic hardships and social isolation.
In South Korea, data has shown that defectors often have difficulties in becoming integrated into local society, with lawmaker Shin Kyoung-min saying as of last September that 31 defectors had committed suicide.
One student defector contacted by NK News, who requested anonymity, underscored the difficulties members of her community currently faced.
“I once conducted research about defectors’ lives, and during the research period I heard of two suicide cases,” the student told NK News.
“Life in South Korea left me with lots of shocking memories, such as the Sewol ferry disaster,” the defector said. “The only thing I achieved is freedom. In return for it, I lost lots of things such as family,” she said.
At the same time, North Korea has been making increasing effort to attract defectors back to the country that visit the China-North Korea border area.
“In the mid-2000, North Korea used to target defectors and attract them and in those cases, Pyongyang didn’t use them for propaganda,” said Kim of NK Reform Radio.
“These days, North Korea still attracts people, but it only makes effort with certain defectors, not ordinary people,” Kim said.
As of Monday, the video had only appeared on Uriminzokkiri’s YouTube channel, with nothing about the case shown on domestic TV or the flagship Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) service.
“This video is coming to us via a channel that is intended for consumption by sympathetic South Koreans and North Korean escapees who may be struggling in South Korean society and open to the possibility of returning northward,” said Christopher Green, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Leiden.
“Were it to be shown on domestic North Korean television in some form, that would change our assessment of the audience somewhat.”
Main picture: Uriminzokkiri