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North Koreans in China, Russia seeking safe passage to South Korea

More North Koreans, some of elite status, are becoming resentful of Kim Jong Un’s crackdown against defections.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Koreans in China, Russia seeking safe passage to South Korea
Kim Jong Un has stepped up measures against defectors but the policy hasn’t stopped North Koreans of elite status from leaving the country, a high-profile defector in the South said on Thursday. File Photo by Rodong Sinmun

SEOUL, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- North Koreans in China and Russia have recently defected from their workplaces, according to multiple South Korean press reports.

More than 20 North Korean forced laborers at a construction site in Moscow sought asylum with a U.N. refugee agency and were seeking safe passage to South Korea, Seoul-based television network Channel A reported.

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In China, a North Korean agent and translator stationed at Pyongyang's embassy in Beijing also defected, according to South Korea-based defector Ko Yong-hwan.

In an interview with news network YTN, Ko said he has intelligence that the translator, though not a diplomat, would have valuable information because of the contacts the defector made with North Korea's state security personnel in China.

Ko also said Seoul does not always disclose data on elite defectors who have increasingly become disenchanted with the Kim Jong Un regime.

Ko, the first North Korean diplomat to resettle in the South in 1991, also said the defections may be a response to higher levels of crackdowns under Kim.

"The strengthened surveillance and censorship should diminish [defections], but instead the crackdowns are making people more resentful and motivating them to escape," Ko said on Thursday.

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South Korean President Park Geun-hye has not stopped encouraging North Koreans to leave their country, weeks after stating they should escape to the "bosom of freedom" in the South.

On Thursday, Park said North Koreans are being forced to lead a "hellish life" under the Kim regime, and that she would open all pathways to defection, local newspaper Hankook Ilbo reported.

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