“Escape After Listening to South Korean Broadcasting”…18th ‘Boat People’ Not for Survival

[imText1]On the 18th, 5 North Koreans including the family of Mr. Lee (37) defected to the East Sea of South Korea by a 2 ton vessel.

Mr. Lee said, “I listened to South Korean broadcasting while I was in the military. I have been wishing to go to South Korea, and last January, I decided to defect to South Korea.” Last June, Mr. Hong (43) who defected through Baekryong island on the West Sea last said that he defected because of hunger. On the contrary, the escape of Mr.Lee implies that the escape was not just for survival.

It is known that fishermen are relatively well-off in North Korea. There used to be a saying in North Korea, “Officials, Widows and Fishermen have the best lives.”

In North Korea, a ship cannot be privately owned. Since private possession is not guaranteed, individuals have to register the purchased ships to the public and take care of the ships. It is similar to how individuals purchase cars.

In the mid-1990s, the international community had predicted that North Koreans might experience ‘mass-defection’. It was predicted that the ‘mass-defection’ will take place through boat people.

However, most of them defected through China. In reality, people who live on boats do not have a hard life enough to starve, which is why they usually do not think about defecting. This is one of the reasons why defection through sea is rare.

Another reason is that defection was not expressions of their resistance to the government but for survival. North Koreans who are taught about the hostility of South Koreans cannot change their way of thinking all at once. Most of the North Korean defectors wander in China or third countries for 3~5 years, and decide to come to South Korea after learning about the situation in South Korea.

They can only come to South Korea by boat when they have the courage to risk their lives. They need to use a small lighter in order to avoid the radar, and they risk the danger of drifting because they choose foggy day to travel. They also need to take into consideration the shooting by North Korean marines.

Not many North Koreans were successful as ‘Boat People’. The biggest incident was Mr. Soon Yong Bum who came with 21 families and relatives in August 2002, and 10 family members of Kim Man Chul in 1987, 14 family members of Ahn Sun Gook and Kim Won Hyung in 1997 who came through West Sea were other incidents.