Re-defectors to North Korea give internal lectures on defection regret

Residences in Namyang, North Hamgyong Province. Image: Daily NK

To influence the population living in its border areas, the North Korean authorities have publicly paraded a number of the country’s re-defectors (those who have previously fled the country but ultimately returned), sending them to visit different areas to deliver lectures on the ills of capitalism and their regret for ever having left the country.

“In early December in Hoeryong’s Onsong County, I listened to a lecture from a women in her 40s who had defected but then returned. She spoke about how even in China her status wasn’t guaranteed, she couldn’t get money, and she couldn’t go to the hospital when she was sick. She said the entire time she was outside North Korea she was discriminated against and treated as less than human, describing her life as one of a social outcast,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK.

The lecture was delivered to women working at factories and farms across Onsong County as well as Musan Mine.

The lecturer in question defected from North Korea in 2012 and stayed in China until her repatriation to North Korea in September this year, sneaking back into the country using falsified Chinese national identification papers with a tour group entering North Korea from China via Namyang.

An official from the Ministry of State Security present at the lecture said she came back because she missed the “warm embrace of the motherland” and that she and others like her are forgiven.

The lecture focused on the issue of financial hardship in a capitalist society like China, leading to a dehumanizing experience and potential sexual exploitation. The re-defector added that she was “surprised how fast our country is developing.”

“We’ve all heard a lot of lectures like this before so it’s nothing new, but people are always curious to hear about life in China. People talked a lot afterward about why she would have stayed in that ‘terrible capitalist world’ for six years if the situation was that bad,” a separate source in North Hamgyong Province said.

“I remember another lecture before this one featuring a lecturer who was a manager at a factory in Onsong County before defecting to South Korea and then coming back to North Korea again. But then a few years after that she and her entire family defected again. People kind of wonder if that’s what’s going on with this latest woman. I don’t think anyone just believes everything they tell us at those types of lectures.”

Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to