One of a group of 9 defectors which arrived in South Korea yesterday lunchtime from Japan has claimed to be the grandson of a high level North Korean official.
Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV reported the man in his forties as saying, “My grandfather was Baek Nam Woon, once the chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and my father is in the Workers’ Party, dealing with espionage operations against South Korea and kidnapping South Koreans.”
Baek Nam Woon was an economic historian who studied at Tokyo University of Commerce (now Hitotsubashi University) before moving to North Korea at the end of World War II. In North Korea he went on to hold key posts in education and science, even becoming Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly before he passed away in 1979.
Fuji TV reported, “The man claims his father played a role in kidnapping close to 100 South Koreans, before inducting them into North Korea’s spy network and sending them back to South Korea as sleeper agents. Whether the man can help identify any of this group of active spies is sure to be a source of interest.”
Arriving at Incheon International Airport, the group all wore hats or hoodies, dark glasses and masks to protect their identities. Originally the plan had been for one of the group to hold a short interview with the press at the airport, but this was cancelled and they were led quickly away.
“These people will follow the normal procedure for any defector who comes to South Korea via a third country,” the Ministry of Unification confirmed. “As a rule they undergo an investigation at the Central Joint Investigation Center before being accepted into Hanawon.”
The Joint Investigation Team is made up of members of the police, the NSA, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Security Command, who question members of the group on their backgrounds and motivations.
According to the Japanese media, the group told the Japanese authorities in their own investigation that they had heard about the better conditions in South Korea from telephone conversations with relatives who had defected earlier, as well as through shortwave radio broadcasts.
However, unlike original reports which claimed the group had ended up in Japanese waters after going adrift on the way to South Korea, the group also said that they deliberately changed course after meeting strong winds along the way and, thanks to a basic compass, were able to chart their way to Japanese waters.
The group had all heard information about South Korea via shortwave radio, and one member had made telephone calls and exchanged letters with family members already in South Korea from the Sino-North Korean border.
A source close to the Japanese government investigation expressed surprise that ordinary North Koreans knew so much about the outside world.
Speaking yesterday about why it took three weeks to comply with the group’s wish to go to South Korea, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimaru Osamu said “That is how long it took to understand their circumstances in North Korea.”
Fujimaru also said that the government had “obtained a range of information about North Korea” as a result of the investigation.