Externally-focused North Korean state media on Thursday lambasted Ji Seong-ho, a prominent North Korean defector recently recruited by South Korea’s main opposition party.
The article is the first from the Uriminzokkiri to comment on the South’s decision to recruit high-profile defectors such as Ji and former DPRK diplomat Thae Yong Ho ahead of a parliamentary election in April this year.
In an article titled “Purchasing trash, not ‘talent acquisition’,” Uriminzokkiri referred to Ji as “cruel and tyrannical human scum” who is “running amok as a frontline of anti-DPRK propaganda conspiracy.”
The report, while not directly mentioning Thae — another prominent defector set to stand as a candidate for the opposition party — did brand all of the new LKP recruits generally as “scum.”
The condemnation was made amid broader criticism on South Korea’s conservative party, a recurring theme on externally-focused North Korean state media for decades.
In libelous invective, the Uriminzokkiri accused Ji, the defector-turned-politician, of being a “rapscallion and a criminal” and a “pervert”– common criticisms issued by North Korea against high-profile escapees.
Ji was invited to the 2018 State of the Union address by U.S. President Donald Trump, during which he held up the crutches he used during his defection to applause from those in attendance.
Ji has said his amputation was caused by a train accident that took place when he attempted to steal coal to barter for food.
Uriminzokkiri, however, referred to that “1996 April” incident as “stealing state property,” and asserted that Ji had distorted the facts to “receive more money from the hostile forces.”
Ji Seong-ho defected to South Korea in 2006, with Thae Yong Ho having come ten years later.
The LKP’s recruiting of North Korean defectors, although not unprecedented, has in recent days sparked heated debate in South Korea on the extent to which they can actually play a role in the country’s already-deeply-polarized political scene.
Some have raised concerns about the extra security measures that will be required for Thae, and the impact the recruits may have on already-fraught inter-Korean relations.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, however, the former diplomat said that he hoped to contribute to Seoul’s North Korea policy with his in-depth understanding of the regime.
“I know more than anybody in the Republic of Korea about the North Korean regime,” he said, adding that the issue of unification should not be the agenda of any one administration or political faction.
“I want to show how even a newbie ROK citizen, who recently came from the North in search of freedom, can take on a role as the member of the National Assembly — a constitutional institution.”
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham