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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
Jon Hye Song, a North Korean defector known as Lim Ji-hyun in South Korea, defected back to the North last month, North Korea’s Uriminzokkiri outlet claimed on Saturday.
Jon had appeared on at least three different South Korean TV shows, even one hosted by a South Korean government body, but said on North Korean TV that her life in the South had been “painful” and full of “lies.”
“I am Jon Hye Song, who left to South Korea in January 2014, and returned to the motherland in June 2017,” Jon continued. “Currently, I am living in Munbong-dong, Anju, South Pyongan Province with my parents.”
She had defected hoping to become wealthy and famous, she said, but had found that “South Korea was not the place that I imagined.”
To make a living, Jon said she had worked as a hostess in bars, and that the women like her – “traitors of the nation”, as she put it – could only find work in South Korea that would “mentally” and “physically” harm them.
Becoming a successful actress had been her childhood dream, Jon said, so she decided to appear on the Moranbong Club, a South Korean talk-show hosted by TV Chosun where defectors gather to talk about life in North Korea.
“If I do well in the Moranbong Club show, I would get popular and will soon be able to film movies: that is what I thought,” Jon continued.
“But the production crews told all of the defectors (at the show) that we can’t say anything good about North Korea, we must use North Korean (accented Korean), and should never point out other defectors’ lies and must pretend like we know nothing (about their lies).”
“I used the alias Lim Ji-hyun… at that time, and just as South Koreans told me to, I viciously slandered my country.”
To make the show more interesting, she was told by producers to fabricate stories, Jon claimed.
Later, Jon also appeared on Season Two of Aejeong Tongil Namnam Buknyeo, a reality show hosted by TV Chosun where a South Korean man and a North Korean woman pretend to be married.
While filming the show, Jon said, she was told to make it appear that “people from the North know nothing and are foolish.”
Jon added that she also appeared on the program hosted by KFN TV, a cable and satellite television station under South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND).
“All of those people on the South Korean TV shows are like me, they got blinded by the money, and are ordered to read out the script for money,” Jon said towards the end of the clip.
Speaking to NK News on Sunday afternoon, TV Chosun said the company is aware of the case but declined to comment.
“Re-defection” by North Koreans living in the South is rare but does occasionally happen – and is often widely publicized by North Korean state media.
In November last year, three re-defectors appeared on Uriminzokkiri and spoke of how they were treated as “second-class citizens” in the South.
A recent poll released by a South Korean government-backed institute said that around 50 percent of North Korean defectors living in the country claimed to have experienced discrimination because of their background.
The leader of a defector NGO in South Korea said that many defectors are in similar situation as Jon, and urged Seoul to consider taking measures to increase their quality of life.
“If you are a female defector, at 20 to 30, and currently does not attend the university, then the choices you have to make a living in South Korea are very limited,” Dr. An Chan-il of the World Institute for North Korea Studies told NK News.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: KFN TV, Uriminzokkiri, edited by NK News