SEOUL, South Korea — Nearly 25,000 North Koreans have fled their homeland to South Korea, escaping the repression and poverty of the world’s most militarized nation.
Many make a perilous trek through China, and sometimes to Mongolia and Southeast Asia, where they seek the safety of South Korean consulates and a flight to Seoul
But once in the arms of this developed democracy, not all defectors are happy.
Thanks to a troubled history of national division, many South Koreans look at their northern cousins with distrust. They’re stereotyped as backwards rednecks; even defectors who are educated by North Korean standards work menial factory jobs.
When they’re caught in China, defectors are deported back to North Korea, where they face anything between months and years in hard labor.
Son Jong-Hun is one of a handful of North Korean refugees raising his ire at the South, and threatening to go back to Pyongyang in protest. Coming from a well-to-do background in the North, he told NK News why he wants to go home to Pyongyang.
Part of the problem is the apathy of affluent South Koreans towards unifying the two nations. “South Koreans see reunification as a burden for them. It means more taxation,” he told the website.
But he may have trouble finding a route home. Rather than sneak back across the Chinese border, Son says he’s acting by the book. He may need to renounce his South Korean citizenship and be deported, explains NK News.
Ever since Kim Jong Un took power in early 2012, the regime has taken on a more sophisticated strategy of luring defectors back home — a growing body of “double defectors.” It’s a tiny minority among the thousands of North Koreans in the South.
North Korea seizes on these propaganda victories. Repentant “traitors” have appeared on state-controlled television in recent months, explaining why the garrison state is wonderful and why life on the outside isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
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