S Korea pre­pares for mass de­fec­tions from the North

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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.

Photo: EPA

South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye speaks at a cer­e­mony in Seoul.

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