The South Korean government is investigating the whereabouts of a North Korean defector couple who have disappeared in China, Seoul’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) confirmed on Monday.
In a response to reports by South Korean broadcaster TV Chosun on Sunday that two defectors had voluntarily returned to the North, ministry spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun said he could not confirm the redefection.
“The current situation is that they departed for China in mid-October and [the South Korean government] has lost contact with them,” Baik said. “And therefore, the relevant organizations are investigating it.”
The Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) also confirmed to NK News that the couple had recently left the South for China.
TV Chosun, an affiliate of the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, reported that the 33-year and 36-year old defectors, identified as Song and Son, had returned to North Korea on October 16.
The broadcaster claimed that both had entered Hyesan city in Ryanggang Province via Jillin, China.
The region the two are said to have gone missing
The two had been unemployed since arriving in the South in 2014, Choson TV reported, and missed their 4-year old child left behind in the DPRK.
Neither the unification ministry or the Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) would confirm these details when contacted by NK News.
The KNPA, however, told NK News that some details in the Choson TV report, including the age and the time they entered the South, “are not exactly consistent with” what the police know.
“It hasn’t been officially confirmed that both returned to North Korea… that’s just hearsay,” an official at the KNPA – who wished to remain anonymous – said.
“It’s difficult to confirm that personal information,” he said, adding the surname of the two was identical – contradicting the Choson TV report.
Earlier in the month, South Korean lawmaker Lee Myung-su said that 25 defectors had returned to the DPRK between 2012 and June 2017, citing data provided by the KNPA, with five having later returned to the South.
A total of 26 defectors have so far returned to the North, a spokesperson for the MOU told media on Monday.
The 60-year-old former defector Ju Ok Soon appeared in a video released by the state-run Uriminzokkiri on October 12, having returned to the DPRK via China after leaving the South in July.
The unification ministry spokesperson on Monday said Seoul would take measures to quell a spate of re-defections, highlighted most notably in the case of Lim Ji-hyun, a former defector TV star known as Jon Hye Song in the North.
“We will continue to make efforts to create a social atmosphere so that our people can embrace North Korean defectors as a true member of our society,” Baik said, adding that government and the private sector would help defectors “stand on their own feet as soon as possible” and “integrate.”
In July, the KNPA instructed police stations across the country to locate around 900 North Korean defectors whose whereabouts were unknown, in accordance with South Korea’s resident registration system.
The measures were taken in the aftermath of the re-defection of Jon and her sudden appearances in DPRK state media.
Preliminary statistics released by the MOU this month showed that 881 North Koreans had entered the South between January and September this year, with the total number of defectors reaching 31,093.
Featured Image: Republic of Korea Armed Forces
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 558 words of this article.