North Korean defector returns under mysterious circumstances

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Seoul, July 19 (IANS) A well-known North Korean defector who used to appear regularly on South Korean television has returned under mysterious circumstances to her country, according to a video in which she is seen in Pyongyang complaining about her life in the South.

The video, posted over the weekend by the North Korean Uriminzokkiri website, showed Lim Ji-hyun being interviewed by a woman along with Kim Man-bok, another defector who returned to the North after living in the neighbouring country, Efe news reported.

A spokesperson of South Korea’s Unification Ministry told EFE on Wednesday that the ministry, together with the National Intelligence Service, were investigating to confirm if the person who appeared in the video was indeed Lim.

The woman said in the interview that every day of her life in the South was “hell” and that she went there lured by the false promise that she would be able to eat well and earn a lot of money.

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She also said that, during her TV appearances in the South, she criticised North Korea not out of choice but because the producers told her she had to do it.

Since there is no free media inside North Korea, it was impossible to confirm if the interview was genuine or if the woman, who said that she had gone back to living with her parents in Anju, located around 65 kilometres north of Pyongyang, had been coerced into making these remarks.

Some defectors told the Korea Times daily that Lim may have been detained at the border between China and North Korea while trying to help family members exit the country.

Lim arrived in South Korea in 2014 and like other North Korean defectors began to appear regularly on South Korean TV programmes, which often portray a caricatured view of life in the North.

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From 1953 to 2016 some 30,000 North Koreans fled to the South, with the number of defectors peaking in the late 1990s during the Stalinist state’s famine, according to the South’s Ministry of Unification.

However, since Kim Jong-un’s coming to power in 2012, a total of 25 defectors returned to North Korea, including Lim, according to the ministry.

These citizens often appear on North Korean state-run media criticising their lives in the South.



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