Police Examining If Defector Returned to N. Korea Willingly

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) —
U.S. Army soldiers stand guard at Taesungdong freedom village near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Police in South Korea’s capital on Wednesday began investigating how a North Korean woman who defected in 2014 and made South Korean media appearances ended up back in the North.

The woman known as Lim Ji-hyeon in South Korea had appeared on talk shows that aired until April. She left the country earlier this year for China and is the same woman who appeared in a North Korean propaganda video that aired Sunday, said an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

Police are planning to track her recent activities and interview her acquaintances, while also trying to determine whether she returned to North Korea willingly or was abducted in China, the police official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.

In the North Korean propaganda video, the woman introduced herself as Jon Hye Song. She said she was living with her parents again after returning to the North in June and described her life in the South as unbearable.

“In a society where money determines everything, there was only physical, psychological pain for a woman like me who betrayed her fatherland and ran away,” the woman said in a video posted on the Uriminzokkiri website. The woman also said she was asked to “maliciously slander” North Korea when she appeared on South Korean media.

North Korean propaganda often contains extreme claims and sometimes features former defectors who criticize the South.

According to South Korean government figures, more than 30,000 North Koreans have defected and resettled in the South as of June this year, and many say they escaped in search of better lives and freedom. Activists say some defectors return to smuggle out relatives or are abducted in China and taken to the North.

According to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, 25 defectors re-entered the North since 2012, shortly after current ruler Kim Jong Un took power, but five of them managed to escape again and return to the South.

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