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North Korea opens reeducation center for repatriated defectors

Pyongyang has established a re-education center for returnees, according to a defector in the South.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Panmungak, a North Korean building near the truce village of Panmunjom, as seen from the South. North Korea has been struggling with defections, but a source in the South says Kim Jong Un has built a new reeducation center for repatriated North Koreans. File Photo by Spike Call/U.S. Navy
Panmungak, a North Korean building near the truce village of Panmunjom, as seen from the South. North Korea has been struggling with defections, but a source in the South says Kim Jong Un has built a new reeducation center for repatriated North Koreans. File Photo by Spike Call/U.S. Navy | License Photo

SEOUL, April 20 (UPI) -- North Korea has built an ideological reeducation center for repatriated North Korean defectors under Kim Jong Un's orders.

Kim Seong-min, a defector in the South who heads Free North Korea Radio, told reporters North Korea's newest institution is called Hanawon, Yonhap reported.

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The name should sound familiar to North Korea watchers, as it's also the name of the detention center in the South where recent North Korean arrivals are required to stay before entering South Korean society.

"We had thought Hanawon, where refugees receive short-term training before resettling, was unique to the South, but North Korea has also built a Hanawon," Kim said Wednesday.

North Korea's rival Hanawon opened in January, and occupies a two-story building that once was under the ownership of the People's Armed Forces.

At present the building is being occupied by five North Korean re-defectors, along with two foreigners who were presumably kidnapped from China, Kim said.

It wasn't clear whether the re-defectors returned voluntarily or were forced to return to the North.

At the North Korean institution, detainees receive long-term "re-education," and are required to wear uniforms like prisoners. Their daily activities include criticizing life in South Korea and praising socialism, Kim said.

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North Korea's Hanawon prevents residents from going outside, but sometimes they are allowed to leave the premises to perform acts of "social labor."

The detainees perform housework, farm work and help North Korean cadres with housekeeping duties.

Multiple sources confirmed the institution was established in the southern section of the city of Hamhung, Kim said.

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