Two more North Korean citizens, one of whom is apparently a military officer, have defected to South Korea amid a resurgence of tensions between Kim Jong Un and nations allied to the United States.
Early Saturday morning, the two North Korean citizens were found in a boat in the Yellow Sea near the border between the two states by a South Korean military patrol. One of the two was identified as a member of the North Korean military, and they both “demonstrated” a willingness to defect, according to South Korea based news agency Yonhap. That is an important distinction to make in South Korean media, as North Korean officials regularly accuse their southern neighbors of “tricking” North Koreans into defection, followed by demands for their return.
In fact, North Korean allegations of luring defectors to the South have been levied as recently as this week, as North Korea accused South Korea of “forcibly abducting” thirteen employees, 12 female workers and their male manager, from a North Korean state-owned restaurant in China in 2016. In their claims, they cite a South Korean broadcaster that apparently insinuated that the 13 North Koreans may have been “lured” away from their “communist homeland.”
According to a KCNA report, the South Korean cable broadcaster JTBC recently put it that the,
case of group defection of the North’s employees’ in April 2016 was proven to be a conspiratorial farce cooked up by the Park Geun Hye group of traitors, and that those women citizens of the DPRK were proven to have been forcibly abducted by the puppet Intelligence Service by interviews of a criminal involved in the case and victims.
The South Korean authorities should admit the unheard-of atrocity of the Park regime, severely punish those involved in the case, send our women citizens to their families without delay and thus show the will to improve the North-South ties,”
The same day North Korea issued these statements, the two new defectors were recovered by South Korean authorities, where they will undergo medical screenings and interrogation via South Korean officials.
Although tensions between North Korea and a coalition of nations led by American President Donald Trump have waned in recent months, including an apparent willingness to dismantle the troubled Punggye-ri nuclear test site, they have spiked again recently. A planned summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump is now suddenly in question, following an apparent change of heart within North Korea, potentially prompted by statements made by Trump’s controversial pick for national security advisor, John Bolton as well as ongoing bi-lateral military exercises on the peninsula carried out by U.S. and South Korean forces.
These new defections have prompted some questions among analysts regarding how committed Kim may truly be to achieving a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has touted the financial benefits North Korea would enjoy through increased cooperation with the United States, but some North Koreans continue to either see the current situation as too dire to manage or have little faith that a Trump-Kim summit will result in any changes at all – as indicated by their apparent willingness to risk not only their own lives, but the lives of their family members in an attempt to defect to the South.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press