S Korea prepares for mass defections from the North
SOUTH Korean President Park Geunhye told her government yesterday to prepare for large-scale defections from North Korea, just days after directly appealing to its citizens to flee their country.
A recent spate of high-profile North Korean defections have provided a propaganda windfall for Seoul, which has spun them into a narrative of a Pyongyang leadership in crisis and riven with descent.
Notable defections have included the North’s deputy ambassador to Britain and a rare group escape by a dozen waitresses from a North Korean-run restaurant in China.
In an address to mark Armed Forces Day earlier this month, Ms Park had vowed to “keep the road open” for future escapees and urged North Koreans to “come to the bosom of freedom in the South”.
Pyongyang’s response was to call Ms Park a “bare-faced and impudent bitch” in a commentary carried by the ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting yesterday, Ms Park reiterated her defection appeal, and stressed the importance of preparing the ground for any new arrivals.
“Defectors are like unification that has arrived early, and a test bed for unification,” Ms Park said.
“I hope we can swiftly secure sufficient system and capacity to accommodate North Korean citizens who come seeking freedom.”
The government currently runs two resettlement centres for defectors with a combined capacity of around 1100 people.
South Korea’s top-selling Chosun Ilbo reported that the government was planning a two trillion won (US$1.8 billion) project for building a defector camp that would hold up to 100,000 people.
Citing an unnamed government official, the report said closed-down schools and new buildings would be used to accommodate an influx of North Korean refugees that could be triggered by any sudden shift in the dynamics of the North-South border.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks at a ceremony in Seoul.