Evidence has emerged to suggest that the North Korean National Security Agency (NSA) is pursuing a concerted policy of luring defectors back to North Korea. The case of Kim Kwang Hyok and Ko Jong Nam, the re-defector couple who gave a press conference in Pyongyang on November 8th, is said to represent the fruits of this effort.
A source from the North Hamkyung Province border city of Hoiryeong told Daily NK yesterday, “After the press conference had been on TV, this provincial NSA official made the comment that, ‘This re-defection was down to us. The couple got caught up in our ‘re-defection plan’ to attract defectors back.’”
“A NSA cadre from Musan County said something similar,” the source went on. “He said, ‘What kind of person would come back of their own free will? It’s one of Musan NSA’s.’”
According to the source, the NSA’s plan is to target defection brokers, who make regular contact with friends and acquaintances inside the North. Prior to his re-defection in September this year, Kim Kwang Hyok was just such a person, working to facilitate exchanges of letters and pass on remittances to people still living in Musan County.
“Defection brokers have to make regular calls to people in North Korea, and when they do the NSA works out where the source of the call is in China and reports it to another team. They head for the relevant area to trace the call and locate the whereabouts of the defectors. Then they use a mixture of conciliatory words and threats of violence to get the family to try and lure the defectors back,” the source said, explaining the process.
The NSA has introduced electromagnetic radiation detector equipment to every significant border city and town in North Korea, and is able to listen in on cellular phone calls if they are close enough. They are also able to operate in nearby regions of China, as reported by Daily NK on November 6th (see linked article).
Sources from inside North Korea say the NSA is trying to lure a trickle of defectors back in order to use them in propaganda such as last week’s press conference and, from there, undermine the psychological pull of defection for people who, since they live along the border with China, would otherwise be able to leave the country relatively easily.
“It instills in the people the idea that defection is only temporary and that they could be dragged back at any time,” the source declared. “They want to block off the will to defect at source.”