First North Korea defector completes South Korea military service

The man resettled in the South in 2005.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  June 17, 2016 at 1:21 PM
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SEOUL, June 17 (UPI) -- As more North Korean refugees resettle in the South, the first North Korean defector to enlist in the South Korean army completed his term of service.

The 21-year-old man who interviewed with a South Korean government publication under a pseudonym said he had no issues serving in the army.

That's because in North Korea young men are expected to stay in the service for 10 years, but in the South mandatory military service lasts less than two years, he said.

Kim Ji-hwan said he was born in Onsong County, in North Korea's North Hamgyong Province, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

Kim left North Korea with his parents when he was 4, then hid from Chinese authorities only to be caught and repatriated to the North.

The family eventually made it to the South in 2005, when Kim was 10. Seoul resettled the family in Gangwon Province where Kim attended South Korean schools.

Kim said he has no recollection of North Korea, but he also added he doesn't want to remember his country of origin – his family left shortly after a famine killed more than a million people, according to U.N. estimates.

South Korea does not require North Korean male defectors to serve in the military like other South Korean men, but a military service law that was adopted in 1984 allows defectors to enter the military.

Kim graduated from a South Korean aviation high school and served in the air force.

According to the Chosun, the military kept Kim's defector status secret, because they believed the information would have an adverse effect on Kim's military life.

Kim said he hopes to become an aviation mechanic and is studying for a certification.

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