North Korean Defector Killed Someone Before Dramatic Escape Across the DMZ

This explains a lot of why this North Korean soldier was in such a rush to defect across the DMZ:

A North Korean soldier who made a desperate dash across the border in November escaped after causing a person’s death, a South Korean newspaper reported Tuesday, quoting an unidentified intelligence official.

According to the report in newspaper Dong-A, the confession came from Oh Chung Sung—or Oh Chong Song, depending on the translation—over the course of a routine interrogation led by the the South Korean spy agency.

“I committed a crime in North Korea, which caused a death,” Oh reportedly said. Though South Korean media reported his comments about killing someone, the nature of the alleged crime was not clear.

The South Korean Ministry of Unification did not confirm the reports. “The investigation has not been completed yet,” a ministry spokesperson told reporters at a press conference, quoted in South Korean news agency Yonhap. “We cannot confirm specific details of the incident.” [Newsweek]

You can read the rest at the link, but it is not expected that the ROK will send the defector back to North Korea despite the murder.

North Korean Soldier Who Defected Across the DMZ Will Survive, But Was In Very Poor Health Before Being Shot

North Korean Defectors Show Signs of Radiation Exposure

Not only is South Korea having diseased defectors arrive, they now have to deal with ones that have radiation exposure as well:

At least four defectors from North Korea have shown signs of radiation exposure, the South Korean government said on Wednesday, although researchers could not confirm if they were was related to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

The four are among 30 former residents of Kilju county, an area in North Korea that includes the nuclear test site Punggye-ri, who have been examined by the South Korean government since October, a month after the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a news briefing.

They were exposed to radiation between May 2009 and January 2013, and all defected to the South before the most recent test, a researcher at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, which carried out the examinations, told reporters. [Reuters]

You can read more at the link.

The Fourth North Korean Soldier This Year Defects Across the DMZ

Yet another North Korean soldier has defected across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and this time it was not as dramatic as the November defection at the JSA:

A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea across the mid-western border Thursday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

“A low-ranking soldier defected to our GP (guard post) across the mid-western border at 8:04 a.m.,” a JCS official said, asking not to be named.

The latest defection came about 40 days after another North Korean soldier fled to the South through the Joint Security Area (JSA) at the truce village of Panmunjeom.

The JCS said the GP occupants identified the soldier coming toward the South through surveillance equipment, adding that the soldier carried an AK-47 assault rifle.

“Relevant bodies will conduct an investigation into how and why the soldier defected to the South,” the official said.

No shots were exchanged between the two Koreas during the soldier’s defection; but South Korean troops fired 20 warning rounds from K-3 machine guns at 9:24 a.m. when North Korean border guards approached the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) while searching for the soldier who defected.

“The North’s border guards stopped approaching the MDL after our warning shots,” the official said.

At 10:13 a.m. and 10:16 a.m., shots were heard from the North, but there was no damage on the South Korean side, the official added.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but I would not be surprised if the shots heard from the North were executions of the officers responsible for the soldier who defected.  The same thing happened after the Russian student defected during the 1984 JSA Shootout.

This defection is the fourth this year by a North Korean soldier.  Prior to these defections there were four defections of North Korean soldiers in the past 5 years.

Coincidentally on the same day two North Korean fishermen defected across the East Sea as well.  They were picked up to the north of Dokdo.  That makes 15 North Korean defections this year across the DMZ or maritime border compared to 5 last year.  The numbers may be up this year of defecting across the border, but the numbers are still too low to draw any hard conclusions.  I guess we will see what happens in 2018.

Why 85% of North Korean Defectors Are Women

The male North Korean soldier that defected last month across the DMZ is actually a very small minority of the demographic that composes North Korean defectors.  The vast majority of the defectors are actually women:

North Korean women dressed in traditional dresses, leave the restaurant they work at and head to the North Korean embassy in Beijing, on December 17, 2006. Women participate in North Korea’s unofficial economy in at higher rates and the country’s gray markets have continued to proliferate. UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver

The backward North Korean economy produces very little that the world wants.  But Big Brother China, however, is hungry for the two things Pyongyang does have in relative abundance: coal and women. The coal keeps the fires burning in energy-poor China. The women help to meet the shortage of brides in China’s male-dominated society.

China’s one-child policy has devastated the female population. Over the past three-and-a-half decades that the policy has been in place, tens of millions of girls have disappeared from the population. They were killed in utero by sex-selection abortions, at birth by female infanticide, or after birth by simple neglect.  (……)

One place that Chinese men look for brides is the other side of the Yalu River, for in North Korea there are lots of hungry young women longing for a better life. The population of Kim Jong Un’s socialist paradise subsists in near famine conditions, with two in five North Koreans undernourished and more than two-thirds on food aid.  [Fox News]

You can read more at the link, but the 85% number discussed in the article has actually increased from the 80% number in 2015.

Besides the sex industry in China, the other factor that plays into this is that most of the men in North Korea are also tied up working in state owned factories or the military.  This leaves the women to often be the ones working in the various markets that have sprang up around North Korea.  The women working in the markets develop contacts with businessmen bringing goods in from China.  This makes the women thus more susceptible to seeking to cross the border themselves.

Of further interest is that many of the North Korean refugees when they do come to South Korea end up becoming part of the sex industry in that country as well.

Tweet of the Day: South Korea Broadcasts Defector’s Health Update Into North Korea

United Nations Command Releases Video of Defection Through the Joint Security Area

These finding are unsurprising based off what has already been reported about this incident:

A North Korean soldier runs toward the south side of the Joint Security Area (JSA) after getting out of a vehicle stuck along a row of JSA buildings in this surveillance camera footage released by the United Nations Command, Wednesday. / Courtesy of United Nations Command

North Korean troops violated an armistice agreement last week when they were chasing a fellow soldier defecting to South Korea through the Joint Security Area (JSA) at the truce village of Panmunjeom, the United Nations Command (UNC) announced Wednesday.

Releasing video clips lasting around seven minutes showing the incident, the UNC said the (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA) violated the Armistice Agreement twice when its border security guards fired weapons across the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) after the defector had entered the South and when one KPA soldier temporarily crossed the line for a few seconds.  [Korea Times]

Here are the details of the incident:

Closed-circuit television footage the UNC released starts with the defector approaching in a vehicle across the 72-hour Bridge, with the CCTV timeline that reads “2017-11-13 15:11.”

After the vehicle driven by the defector in a KPA uniform became stuck along a row of JSA buildings, he got out and ran south across the MDL.

While the defector was running south, four North Korean guards, armed with pistols and rifles, engaged him with direct fire, during which time some of the gunshots flew over the MDL, and one soldier briefly crossed the line before returning back to the north side of the JSA.

Separate footage from a thermal observation device showed two members of South Korea’s JSA security battalion crawling along the ground to recover the wounded defector lying against a wall, while one member covered the retreat, prior to his evacuation for medical treatment.

The UNC said its investigation team determined JSA security battalion personnel took appropriate actions during the incident, which resulted in a “de-escalation of tension and no loss of life.”

You can read more at the link and below is the video:

The biggest take away I saw from the video was that I was surprised the North Koreans had no vehicle checkpoints on the way to their side of the JSA.  This soldier came very close to being able to drive across the Military Demarcation Line within the JSA if his vehicle did not get stuck.  I would imagine vehicle checkpoints have since been put into place by the North Koreans to prevent this from happening again.

Washington Post Interviews 25 North Koreans Who Explain What Life is Like Under Kim Jong-un

The Washington Post has an article published that features interviews with 25 recently defected North Koreans that explains what life is like under the Kim Jong-un regime.  I did not read anything I did not already know, but it is an interesting article none the less:

When Kim Jong Un became the leader of North Korea almost six years ago, many North Koreans thought that their lives were going to improve. He offered the hope of generational change in the world’s longest-running communist dynasty. After all, he was so young. A millennial. Someone with experience of the outside world.

But the “Great Successor,” as he is called by the regime, has turned out to be every bit as brutal as his father and grandfather before him. Even as he has allowed greater economic freedom, he has tried to seal the country off more than ever, tightening security along the border with China and stepping up the punishments for those who dare to try to cross it. And at home, freedom of speech, and of thought, is still a mirage.

In six months of interviews in South Korea and Thailand, The Washington Post talked with more than 25 North Koreans from different walks of life who lived in Kim Jong Un’s North Korea and managed to escape from it. In barbecue restaurants, cramped apartments and hotel rooms, these refugees provided the fullest account to date of daily life inside North Korea and how it has changed, and how it hasn’t, since Kim took over from his father, Kim Jong Il, at the end of 2011. Many are from the northern parts of the country that border China — the part of North Korea where life is toughest, and where knowledge about the outside world just across the river is most widespread — and are from the relatively small segment of the population that is prepared to take the risks involved in trying to escape.  [Washington Post]

You can read the rest at the link, but a major theme from the interviews is that the market economy is providing for the daily needs of people and not the regime.  Also people are leaving North Korea now not because of hunger but of disillusionment brought on by the regime’s activities and information from the outside world.  I look at this as validation of why an aggressive information war should be fought within North Korea to cause further disillusionment with the regime.

North Korean Soldier Is Shot After Rare Defection in the Joint Security Area

Here is something that continues to be a rare occurrence:

Wounded North Korean soldier who defected across the DMZ is rushed to the hospital. [Korea Times]

A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea through the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Demilitarized Zone, Monday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

He received gunshot wounds to the shoulder and elbow from North Korean forces while defecting. The soldier was airlifted by a United Nations Command helicopter to a hospital for treatment after arriving in South Korea, the military said.

“A North Korean soldier defected from a guard post on the North Korean side of the JSA toward our side at 3:31 p.m.,” according to a military official.

After hearing several rounds of gunfire, the South Korean military found him fallen and bleeding on the southern side of the JSA, 25 minutes later, according to the military. He was unarmed and wearing a combat uniform for a low rank, with his identity yet to be found, the military also said.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but North Korean soldiers stationed at the Joint Security Area are chosen for their family’s loyalty to the regime.  Assuredly this soldier’s family will be the ones that pay the consequences for his defection.