North Korea releases video of defectors' families

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 7:01 AM

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Koreans pleaded with South Korea to return family members the South says are willing defectors, according to footage released by North Korea's state media on Wednesday.

In the footage, the families accused the South of being "inhumane" as they begged for their relatives back. The video was Pyongyang's latest attempt to pressure Seoul into returning four North Koreans, who were on a fishing boat that strayed into southern waters last month. The South offers asylum to any North Korean who reaches its shores and asks for it.

South Korea says the other 27 North Koreans aboard the vessel have asked to return home, and it has agreed to comply with their wishes. However, the North wants all 31 back, accusing Seoul of coercing the four to stay, and the dispute has left the whole group in limbo.

On Wednesday, North Korea posted videos containing interviews with relatives of the four on its Uriminzokkiri website.

The footage shows a woman identified as the mother of one of the defectors calling the South Korean side "inhumane" and "confrontational" and accusing it of trying to separate her from her daughter.

"They are stomping on the mother's desperate wish to get her daughter back," Park Myong Ok said in an affected style of speech often used in North Korea. "The South Korean puppet regime must return my daughter to her mother's arms right away."

Others said their family members have no reason to defect to South Korea.

"He is not a person who can betray our republic that has greatly nurtured him," said Rim Yong Ok, identified as the wife of another defector. She said her two children "are now anxiously yearning for their father."

It was impossible to ascertain whether the North Koreans had been coached on what to say or how to say it. Any video appearance by ordinary North Koreans in a state media outlet, however, is unlikely to be completely spontaneous in nature.

Earlier this week, North Korea proposed bringing the family members to a meeting with South Korean officials. South Korea said it has no intention of repatriating the four though it is willing to hold talks on how to verify their intention to resettle in the South.

The wrangling over the defectors is the latest friction between the Koreas. Ties soured last year after the sinking of a South Korean warship that Seoul blamed on Pyongyang and North Korea's shelling of a front-line South Korean island. A total of 46 South Koreans died in the ship sinking and four in the shelling.

Their divided peninsula officially remains in a state of war because the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. More than 20,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since the war ended in 1953.

South Korea says it accepts those who choose to defect and repatriates those who wish to return home.

© 2011 The Associated Press