[imText1]Recently it has been known that the government of North Korea has been investigating on the family members of those who defected to South Korea, and expelling them to remote local areas.
Furthermore it has been reinvestigating of those who have past experience of defection in order to strictly impose punishments to the defectors. It has also been known that those with heavy charge, such as who have been to the gate of South Korean embassy in Beijing, are sent to concentration camps once discovered.
According to Cho Myong Chul, a North Korean whom The DailyNK met on July 2 at Tumen, Sino-Korean border, “the government of North Korea have started investigation on the family members of the defectors who have fled to South Korea and started to expel them to remote places. Not only has the government started reinvestigation of the defectors including those who have fled to China, or have defected to China in the past, and are sending them to concentration camps.”
Mr. Cho who was on his way back to North Korea after visiting his relatives in China expressed his grievance by saying, “I am going back because of my family. If anything goes wrong, I will never be able to come out again.”
The following is the interview with Mr. Cho.
Since when did the government start to expel the defectors to the country side?
It is known to be from mid April. There are many families disappeared in Hamheung. In my village, there was a family who had a son defected to South Korea, and they were expelled few days ago. The people of the village used to complain, “we are starting to death while they live affluently with the money their son sends (from South Korea).”
To where are they expelled?
People from the North sent to Southern parts and from South to Northern parts. They scatter people around.
Which department is in charge of the conduction?
The police and National Security Agency work cooperatively. They double investigate, and it is known that the National Security Agency makes final decision. Depending on the person in subjected was arrested in China or on the way or South Korea, they are either sent to concentration camp or Gyo Hwa So(detention camp). I have never see anyone returned from the National Security Agency among those who have been caught on their way to South Korea.
How do they know of the individuals defected to South Korea? Do they have the list of the names?
It is known that the National Security Agency has the list of all the names of the people who have fled to South Korea. There was a man believed to be lost 1998. At first nobody cared but starting few years ago, the government officials were sent for special investigation on the man’s family, and the rumor spread that the man fled to South Korea.
How did the (NK) government respond to the defector issue?
“Before the 1990s, the situation was terrifying. Even in 1993, if anyone was found to have fled the country, his picture was posted in all the public buildings across the nation labeled as “traitor of the nation” and local agents arrested them. The arrested people usually disappeared while their family members were sent to remote places.”
In 2000, according to Kim Jong Il’s command, “Allow the residents who have been to China return to North Korea live with their family with the money they bring back,” the North Korean government enforced “generous policy” toward the people who transgressed the border to China in search for food for those who have been to China during the period of food crisis. Then it changed its policy in 2003, where it started to sentence transgressors to 2-3 years of imprisonment in labor camps and required further vigilance on them even after they were released and returned back home.
This indicates that the recent unprecedented reinvestigation by the government on all the defectors and their families regardless of reason for defection is a warning that all defectors will be heavily punished.
According to Mr. Cho, ▲ those arrested during attempt of defection to South Korea ▲those failed to defect to third countries ▲ those who had contacted South Koreans or South Korean missionaries (are immediately sent to gulags) ▲ and their families to be sent to remote places, and the families of the defectors residing South Korea are found and expelled to remote places. Furthermore, for the defectors who transgressed the border in search for food are sentenced to labor/concentration camps for 2-3 years.
Reasons for defection
Recently, the government of North Korea is known to have been reinvestigating even the people who defected during the food crisis. The fact that even those who were exempted from punishments previously according to Kim Jong Il’s command are to be punished now proves how much big of an influence defectors are to the common people.
The first reason why the North Korean government strictly controls even the people with last experience of transgression (attempted defection) is the fact that most of those who have seen and experienced affluent life in China cannot adjust to the impoverished life in North Korea and reattempt defection.
The second reason is the influence they give to the common people. Although they were once exempted of punishments by the command of Kim Jong Il, they were able to bring back the money to start their lives anew without any state control. The people who have not been to China started to think, “since those people were able to visit China without any punishments, we must visit China too.”
Furthermore, those who have been to China have seen the effectiveness of liberation and reformation and the goodness of the capitalism, so they may spread ideas against the regime.
Controlling the Information Flow from the Outside
The reason for expelling family members of the defectors (to South Korea) to segregated places is to cut off the connection from the outside.
For the maintenance of the regime, the North Korean regime is especially sensitive about information flow going in and out. It believes much of the outside information flows into the country from the defectors outside into their family members, and for this reason it drives all the family members of the defectors to remote places to completely cut off the connection with the outside world.
There is not Such Thing as ‘Generous Forgiveness”
Chun Young Soo, a defector who escaped from North Korea in 1997 says, “Once they said if they punish all 300,000 people who transgressed the border, that it too big of a number and it will create a group of people against the regime, so they decided not to punish them.” Then he added, “North Korea has always been using the method of first let them go but later punish, because there is no such thing as forgiveness in a totalitarian state.”
“In 1977, there was one incident where the government announced that all those in the Worker’s Party who confess their past wrongdoings will be forsaken of their crimes. Believing that, many people from my workplace confessed that they have been members of “Chi An Dae” (constabularies, an organization that helped South Korean soldiers during the Korean War), but about a year later they disappeared without anybody noticing,,” said Cho.
He described the reason for expelling the family members of the defectors as, “leaving the defectors without punishments negatively influences other defectors so that is why they are starting investigation again.”