Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, recently instructed officials throughout the country to “provide encouragement and education to the families of defectors,” Daily NK has learned. 

North Korea has recently referred to defectors as “human trash” and has conducted large-scale public campaigns to criticize them. In parallel with this campaign, however, North Korean authorities appear to be consoling the families of defectors who may feel marginalized in the current atmosphere. This effort, a Daily NK source in the country recently reported, is aimed at preventing them from turning away from the regime. 

“Comrade Kim Yo Jong issued an order to party committees in each province [and party committees in the country’s special cities] on the morning of June 10,” the source told Daily NK on June 11. “The directive instructed party and judiciary officials to seek out and offer encouragement to family members of defectors who have remained loyal, have no marks against them, and have diligently fulfilled their duties.” 

According to the source, Kim stated in the order that those who defect to South Korea “are a blemish and bring shame on their country and families, but we cannot allow their immediate family or relatives to suffer or become marginalized due to a small number of individuals.” 

The order further directed party and judicial authorities “to take the lead in embracing and guiding these individuals to lead lives of even more political stability.” 

Her order further noted that although “they are the families of defectors, as long as they remain loyal to the party then we must be bold enough to seek to include them and bring them firmly within the embrace of the party to make the foundations of our socialism even stronger.” 

Kim’s order encouraged officials to seek out the families of defectors who have remained loyal to offer “material and political encouragement.”

The order further noted that “all-embracing politics, virtue politics and the politics of trust are ideological principles created by the Great Leader [Kim Il Sung] that the party has carried forward. Making an entire family pay a harsh price for crimes of an individual does not align with the party’s ideology of putting the people first. Accordingly, we should encourage them to live their lives proudly.” 

PREVENTING POTENTIAL ALIENATION

This directive seems to have been issued in recognition of the fact that the families of defectors may feel psychologically intimidated in the face of several days of mass demonstrations and marches across the nation protesting the distribution of propaganda leaflets by North Korean defectors. Daily NK’s source interpreted the order as an attempt to embrace these families as part of broader efforts to promote social cohesion. 

Kim’s order to show respect to the families of defectors who have stayed loyal to the regime also suggests that North Korean authorities are concerned that these families could turn their back on the regime and harm the country’s “complete solidarity,” particularly given the difficult circumstances North Korea faces both domestically and abroad. 

According to Daily NK’s source, Kim ordered reports on the results of these efforts to console the families of defectors to be sent through internal channels within provincial party organization departments. This suggests that the efforts are to be kept secret from the general public as much as possible. 

Upon receiving the order from Kim, officials managing resident registration and anti-espionage activities in each province reportedly worked overtime to finish putting together lists of households to visit. 

“Party officials at the municipal and county level along with judiciary officials are to visit the families of defectors along with local inminban [North Korea’s lowest administrative unit] leaders,” the source said.

“A range of small items to provide as gifts during the meetings have been prepared in consultation with local people’s committees and food factories. It has been decided that families of defectors in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province – where many such families live – will receive a bottle of alcohol, 500 grams of pork, 500 grams of snacks and a bag of candy,” he added. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.