A North Korean defector said she wants to return home as she feels "trapped" in South Korea, CNN reports. Kim Rhyon Hui claimed she was tricked into going to South Korea and that she now wants to return home to be with her family. An emotional video interview posted by CNN on 24 September showed the defector in tears as she described being away from her family for four years.
However, the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK) has said that it is sceptical about the defector's plea to return. The alliances says that the North Korean government has a reputation for placing pressure on defectors to return home, where they are then severely punished for leaving.
"The North Korean state likes to use rather devious and pretty appalling tactics to coerce North Korean defectors to go back to North Korea, usually using their family members as bait," Michael Glendinning, director of EAHRNK, told IBTimes. "Certainly that was my initial feeling that there had been some kind of pressure put on the defector who is stating all these things. I think there's a strong possibility that her comments are not of her own free will."
Glendinning said that the North Korean government uses these tactics fairly regularly by parading the defectors on television or sometimes using "much more direct methods". While he admitted there was every possibility Rhyon Hui was telling the truth, he didn't believe her claims that she was tricked into going to South Korea, saying it seemed "highly unlikely".
He went on to say that there was little possibility that she would be able to return to North Korea as the South Korean government wouldn't willingly let her do so and that her prosecution for being a North Korean spy further complicates the situation as she can no longer travel out of the country legally. He said the only hope would be for the South Korean government to arrange a reunion with her family.
"What usually happens with the reunions is that they meet in areas used regularly in inter-Korean cooperation and are given some time together," said Glendinning. "These happen every few months or maybe every year or two, depending on the relations between the two Koreas at that particular point in time."
Rhyon Hui told CNN that her choice to leave North Korea had been a "horrible mistake" and that it has led to the "worst situation" of her life. CNN reported that the defector went to China four years ago to seek medical help for a liver disease and that when she couldn't afford the treatment a broker tricked her into going to South Korea by promising she would make a lot of money there.
Rhyon Hui claims she only pretended to be a North Korean spy out of desperation to return to her family and that she hoped it would get her deported. Instead, she was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for passport fraud and espionage. She had her sentence suspended in April 2015 and is now out on parole.
"There is nothing else for me to say but I am sorry," the North Korean defector told CNN. "The wrong choice that I made, my choice of wanting to earn money for my treatment, led to the worst situation in my life. I am regretting with my heart and I am so sorry that I've brought such suffering to my aging parents and husband and my daughter."
The defector has spoken out about her situation three days after the UN Commission of Inquiry said they found crimes against humanity in North Korea and urged the international community to investigate.