Leniency for family members of select defectors

Seol Song Ah  |  2015-07-03 11:43
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The family members of North Korean diplomats or high-ranking Pyongyang Party cadres who defect, in contrast to past practices, are not being sent to prison camps or put under exile but instead are kept only under surveillance. This comes as Kim Jong Un attempts to appease residents in Pyongyang after coming into power, Daily NK has learned. 

Unlike before (Kim Jong Ils leadership), the families of ranking Pyongyang officials who escape the country are not sent off to prison camps or exiled to the mountains, but instead they work at state enterprises, a source from Pyongyang currently residing in Chinas Dandong told Daily NK on Wednesday. They are not kicked out from the Party or dismissed from their posts; they dont officially get branded as being a defector family either. 

He added that although policies refer to defections as being the equivalent to treason, the families of cadres who defect North Korea are left alone, noting that, unsurprisingly, the change has not gone unnoticed by residents of Pyongyang.   

The number of various cadres defecting is on the rise, but I think it was determined that indiscriminate penalization of family members could worsen public sentiment and hurt the Republic, he said. 

Empirically, families of defectors in North Korea appear to lead stable lives in Pyongyang, but bubbling under the surface is the stress of constant surveillance and phone taps by the State Security Department (SSD).

Families of traitors (defectors) are merely used as propaganda for the state, which claims they are able to lead stable lives thanks to the benevolence of the leader, but they never know when theyre going to be executed, the source explained. 

As of late, more officials at North Koreas missions overseas or trade workers plan group defections with their families due to the cycle of purges, executions, and ensuing anxiety rife within the upper echelons of power in the North. Others feel threatened while carrying out overseas posts and defect rather than return to their homeland, according to the source. 

When those with families in Pyongyang or relatives stationed at overseas missions hear of officials' returns being delayed or that they've gone missing, an increasingly common response is, "another one fled," according to the source. 

In such cases, the SSD privately meets the families or relatives of the cadres who have defected, pressuring them to convince the escapees to return under the pretext of forgiveness by the state.   

The degree of leniency offered to each family depends on whether they live in or outside of Pyongyang and whether they are family of cadre or regular citizens, the source asserted, explaining that in cases involving high-ranking Party cadres from Pyongyang or other major hubs, authorities try to resolve and discuss the issue within the SSD and persuade them to show more tolerance in a bid to preserve loyalty.   

When regular citizens from provincial areas defect, however, the SSD and Ministry of Peoples Security agents storm into their homes, shouting at and assaulting everyone in their path. 

Moreover, If a defector family member goes missing for even a day, the relevant inminban [peoples unit] leader and state-enterprise cadres undergo--at the very least-- thorough castigation in criticism sessions, the source concluded.

*Translated by Jihae Lee

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