For two consecutive nights at the end of June, Chosun Central TV showed footage of a news conference by a woman who ‘re-defected’ to North Korea in late May after six years living in the South.
The message the broadcast of June 29th and 30th was intended to convey was, in essence, that the woman, Park In Sook, was foolishly taken in by South Korea’s lies but finally returned to the motherland’s embrace.
It said Park was duped into travelling to the South by a South Korean agent in China, eventually making the journey to Seoul on June 29th, 2006. Following her decision, it said she lived like a slave in the South until May this year, when she was able to return to the North.
The TV coverage emphasized that following her return the woman was given an apartment in Pyongyang and now lives there with her son, who attends a university in the city.
However, the message taken away by many in the North is rather different. According to one source from Park's old hometown, Chongjin, “People who knew Park before she defected noticed that she was looking much younger and healthier.”
“People living here in the Ranam area were pretty envious, saying that judging by the fact that this woman in her 70s had better skin than Party cadres, she must have been living very well before she came here,” the source went on.
While living in Chongjin prior to her defection, Park used to trade between the Ranam area and the city’s Sunam Market. The source, citing one of Park’s fellow 60-something female acquaintances, said, “The things Park said on TV are a topic of conversation. This old woman who had dark, aged skin when she lived in our neighborhood was exposed to South Korea and now looks ten years younger or more.”
“People who knew her are shocked that she has gained weight and her complexion has improved,” the source went on, adding, “People presume that she came back here for some unavoidable reason.”
They also think there is a good chance that she will re-defect once again if given a chance, with many citing the ‘Kim Nam Soo Incident’ as an indicator.
Kim was a manager of a factory in Onsung County in North Hamkyung Province on the Sino-North Korean border who defected in 1996 so as to avoid an encroaching corruption investigation. But, in 2000, after four years living in South Korea, he then returned to North Korea. He was not imprisoned; instead, he was employed in propaganda and sent back to Onsung County, where he became manager of a public bath and barber shop.
However, unable to deal with the surveillance and controls of the regime, he defected again in 2001, this time with his 10-year old son and a 30-something female barber.
This sort of precedent is the reason why Park has been moved into Pyongyang, people reportedly suspect. They point out that living in a Pyongyang apartment is likely to improve her life, while making any future thoughts of departure more difficult.