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North Korea defector living with quarter of a century of guilt


Oh, a native of South Korea, moved his family to Pyongyang in 1985 despite his wife’s reservations on the promise of a good job and free medical treatment for his wife’s hepatitis, but when they arrived he realized he had been tricked.

He says there was not a job nor medical help for his wife, just three months of what he calls, “lectures from day to night on North Korea ideology, history and brainwashing.” He was then forced to work in a radio station broadcasting propaganda.

Oh was sent to Denmark the following year to lure more South Koreans to the communist state. But when he arrived at customs, Oh handed them a piece of paper asking to defect. Held for two months in detention in Germany, he was questioned by different intelligence agencies, including he says the CIA. He was then freed and moved to South Korea.

Oh Kil-nam refuses to keep a single photo of his family in his home. He says it’s just too painful.

“I made such a foolish decision,” Oh says, “which has caused my family to suffer such hardship in the hands of an outrageous criminal organization. It doesn’t help even if I repent, my heart is torn with sorrow.”

Oh learned his wife and daughters, only aged 6 and 9 when they first moved to North Korea, were sent to a concentration camp as punishment for his defection. In 1991, he received the first and last message from them.

Pyongyang claims Oh’s wife has already died from her hepatitis and his daughters want nothing to do with him as they say he deserted them. Oh refuses to believe either claim.

South Korea has increased diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang. President Lee Myung bak asked the Swedish King, Carl Gustav for assistance. Sweden has an embassy in Pyongyang and has, in the past, acted as a neutral broker for countries with no presence there.


From → The blog

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