17 June 2005

Defections and Plots?

In what may reveal a lapse in North Korean security around the June 15 inter-Korean summit anniversary celebration, there appear to have been at least three defections by north Koreans June 17 – one man in uniform found in a park in Cheorwon, and a man and a woman on a boat in the West Sea.

Now, this may simply be a case where North Korean soldiers were given a few extra bottles of Soju in celebration of June 15, and some enterprising folks took advantage of the opportunity to leave. Or it may be coincidence that there were two separate defection attempts on the same day. A sinister plotter would say that these are actually moles; fake defectors sent to spy on the other defectors in the South.

What needs to be watched closely, however, is to see whether these two cases are isolated, or turn out to be the first trickle of a wave of defections. Several of the groups that support and encourage defections have said in the past they were going to try to create massive streams of defections to the South – a humanitarian and political crisis the government in Seoul would be unable to ignore.

Given U.S. President George W. Bush’s sudden propensity to talk North Korean human rights and focus his attention on the human rights issue in the North while meeting a fairly high-profile defector, if we see a steady flow of defections after these first two, I would begin to look seriously for signs of massive injections of U.S. money into the defection-facilitating groups.

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