A source in North Korea says news that a North Korean defector to the South recently re-defected back to the North across the DMZ in Gangwon Province is gradually spreading, primarily in regions along the China-North Korea border. 

According to the source on Friday, word of the incident is spreading by way of relatives in the South and “brokers” facilitating remittances from the South, drawing public interest.

In particular, locals are reportedly growing increasingly curious why somebody would return to the North at a time when more and more people want to escape the country due to the protracted COVID-19 crisis.

Accordingly, most people say they cannot understand the double defector’s decision.

That is to say, people are generally curious, wondering why he would come back when so many people in the North fret that they cannot go to the South, and expressing surprise that he would return after so many people died trying to defect.

On the other hand, some people say this means South Korea is “hopeless.”

They wonder how bad things must have been in the South for him to return to “this place” — i.e., North Korea — where the future contains no guarantees.

special patrols coronavirus outbreak smuggler mobile phones strict smuggler border
This February 2019 photo  shows a border patrol checkpoint in Pungso County, Yanggang Province. / Image: Daily NK

The source said some people say he must have heard capitalism was good, but it seems this was not the case, otherwise he would never have returned after risking his life to leave.

North Korean authorities are likely to put this viewpoint to good use, having long promoted the idea that “traitors to the nation who run away to the South” struggle to survive under South Korea’s “puppet clique.”

North Korean authorities are reportedly doing little to stop the spread of rumors regarding the incident. Moreover, the source said the authorities have yet to issue any official orders regarding the returnee in question.

The individual at the heart of the incident was reportedly living in difficult circumstances as a cleaner in Seoul’s Nowon district from March of last year before defecting back to the North on Jan. 1. He was apparently receiving over KRW 500,000 (around USD 416) in basic living assistance and housing subsidies and had over KRW 10 million (around USD 8,339) in assets.

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