Family and coworkers of the 12 female North Korean restaurant workers involved in April’s mass-defection to South Korea held an interview last week with a Pyongyang representative of the Los Angeles-based Minjok Tongshin.
But while the video was said to be filmed on August 21 – four days after Seoul announced the release of the former workers from – the interviewees seemed to believe their daughters were still being “detained” in South Korean government facilities.
“I still don’t know if my daughter is alive or dead,” Ri Kum Ryang, the mother of one of the ‘abducted’ former restaurant workers, told the pro-North Korea outlet.
“From what I know, my daughter is still detained (in the South Korean facility),” Ri Kum Sook, the mother of Seo Kyung Ah said.
Since April’s mass-defection, the Pyongyang government has accused Seoul of being responsible for the “group abduction of the citizens of the DPRK.”
The South, however, has firmly denied the accusations, stating that “all 13 defectors left North Korea on their free will.” The 13th member of the group was the male supervisor of the workers, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MoU) previously said.
Precedence suggests it is likely that North Korean media is yet to inform local audiences about the 13 defectors’ release to South Korean society.
In contrast to the Korean Central News Agency’s (KCNA) August 21 statement – which explicitly mentioned and criticized Seoul’s decision to “let those girls be free and settle in society” – Pyongyang’s domestically facing media has yet to mention the development.
A news search of the Rodong Sinmun – North Korea’s biggest domestic newspaper – showed no reporting on the whereabouts of the former restaurant workers for the last two weeks, since the time Seoul revealed the restaurant defectors had been released to society.
The tactic of only revealing the news on the internationally-facing KCNA website, and not on domestic TV or in local newspapers, corresponds with how North Korean propagandists handled the high-profile defection of Thae Yong Ho, the former London-based embassy official that arrived in South Korea this August.
One former Pyongyang citizen, who left the city last year, said that North Korean media would never report about the defectors’ settling process in South Korean society as it might make the Seoul government look “good” in the eyes of locals.
“The KCNA statements do not always get printed on the Rodong Sinmun,” Kim Jun Hyuk (alias), a former business person told NK News.
“The media that we read (normally only) said that defectors would go through a few months of re-education process in South Korean government facilities including Hanawon,” said Kim, adding that there was never any explicit mention about what happens after the educational period.
“They never say that the defectors are provided with housing,” he continued. “The (North Korean) media only hints that detectors are ‘thrown out into the South Korean societies’.”
During the roughly 38 minutes long interview, Minjok Tongsin also held a meeting with family members, including the hospitalized mother of one of the former restaurant workers.
“I was hospitalized on August 10 and had surgery on 12,” said Kim Hwa Song, the mother of Chun Ok Hyang.
Kim’s nurse, also interviewed, claimed that her patient had recently been diagnosed with a case of uterine myoma and had gone through the successful operation in Pyongyang.
But the mother had not yet recovered from the surgery as she was still mentally shocked by South Korea’s “abduction” of her daughter, the nurse claimed.
“She rarely ate anything and spent all days in tears…this lead to a problematic condition in her blood pressure and nutritive condition followed by the case of insomnia…,” said the nurse.
Before the release of this video, the latest North Korean video featuring the families or friends of the April defectors’ was released on June 15, NK News previously reported.
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