N. Korea posts interviews with defectors' families

March 10, 2011 - 0:0

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea Wednesday stepped up a propaganda campaign for the return of four defectors to South Korea, releasing rare video footage online of interviews with families appealing for them to come home.

“Father, I miss you. Please come back now!” wailed a teenage girl in a filmed interview posted on the North's official website, Uriminzokkiri.com.
The girl was identified as a daughter of Hong Yong-Hak, a 44-year-old man who is among the four who chose to stay in the South after their fishing boat drifted across the border in thick fog on February 5.
The South has been trying in vain to hand over 27 others who crossed the tense Yellow Sea border on the same boat, but the North has insisted that all 31 be returned.
The isolated communist state refuses to accept that two men and two women want to defect, and says the South put pressure on group members to stay to try to fuel cross-border tensions.
The impoverished North said the four people in question had no reason whatever to defect “in light of their socio-political circumstances and family background”.
In the interviews, the families accused Seoul of detaining the four against their will.
“My husband is not a man who would betray the mother country which nurtured and encouraged him... for what reason would he ever defect?” Hong's wife said angrily.
“I strongly urge them to return my husband and the rest to their home country where their families are waiting,” she said.
Lee Hae-Young, secretary general of the Seoul-based Association of North Korean Defectors, earlier said families of defectors normally face reprisals such as a spell in a prison camp or forced relocation to a rural area.
A woman who said she was the mother of Pak Myong-Ok, a 22-year-old statistician and would-be defector, said in her interview that her daughter had been brainwashed and forced to stay in the South.
“They now make a ridiculous claim that she's defecting. Please send my daughter back to my arms,” she said.
The mother of Bong Un-Ha, a 21-year-old nurse, described her defection as a “conspiracy” and said: “How would Un-Ha ever fall to brainwashing by the enemy and leave her beloved sister and parents?”
The case, the latest in a series of disputes that have kept tensions high for the past year, came as US and South Korean troops continued major military exercises that the North has branded a rehearsal for invasion.
The North wants Seoul to bring the four to a meeting with their families at the border village of Panmunjom so they can confirm in person that they want to stay in the South.
Seoul said it has no intention of producing the defectors, saying their free choice to stay has been “confirmed by objective and fair measures”.
Investigators from the U.S.-led United Nations Command, which supervises the armistice in place since the 1950-53 Korean War, have interviewed the four and confirmed they freely decided to stay in the South.
But the South suggested Wednesday that North Korean officials could visit South Korea to confirm the defectors' decision, though it was unclear whether they would be offered the chance to interview the four.
There has been no reply yet from the North.
Cross-border relations have been icy since the South accused the North of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 near the disputed Yellow Sea border with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang denies the charge.
Tension flared further after Pyongyang shelled a border island in November in its first attack on a civilian area since the Korean War, killing four South Koreans and sparking brief fears of war.
Pyongyang, which habitually lambasts military exercises south of the border as a prepration for war, has threatened an “all-out war” on the war games.