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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 220 (July 26, 2012)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

N. Korea Intensifies Accusation on S. Korea via Defectors' News Conference

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has been stepping up accusations against South Korea and the United States for what it claims are terrorist actions against the socialist country and kidnappings of North Koreans to the South.

   Specifically, the North strongly condemned the two countries for an "indiscriminate scheme to destroy statues of its founding leader Kim Il-sung," as allegedly disclosed by a North Korean defector who was recently arrested in the North.

   In an earlier case last month, the North denounced the Seoul government for the abduction of "innocent North Koreans" and the infringement of their human rights. A North Korean woman claimed on June 28 that she was lured by South Korean agents to defect to the South and lambasted the capitalist system of South Korea she experienced once here.

   On July 20, North Korea's media reported that a North Korean defector named Jon Yong-chol was arrested by the North for allegedly attempting to destroy statues of Kim Il-sung, the national founder of the socialist state.

   According to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Jon said he was ordered by South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities to launch the attacks, claims flatly denied by Seoul.

   In a televised news conference in Pyongyang on July 19, the 52-year-old Jon claimed his mission was to "hurt the dignity of the North's leadership."

   "Although I was caught and arrested, the U.S. and its puppet government's intelligence authorities will continue to make a second and third Jon Yong-chol for a desperate attempt to organize a major plot in which they will never succeed," he said.

   "The consistent hostile policy towards the DPRK (North Korea) pursued by the U.S. is giving rise to the evil cycle of confrontation and tensions on the Korean Peninsula, making the prospect of denuclearizing the peninsula all the more gloomy," a spokesman for the North's foreign ministry said in an English-language statement carried by KCNA.

   The North's foreign ministry said on July 20 it has no choice but to "totally reexamine the nuclear issue." The statement did not elaborate on what was meant by reconsideration of the issue, but concerns persist that Pyongyang may conduct a third nuclear test following its botched rocket launch in April.

   "The situation compels the DPRK to totally reexamine the nuclear issue," the spokesman said, calling the case of Jon hideous, "as hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership."

   In Jon's conference, which the North said was attended by foreign press correspondents and also covered by the KCNA, Jon claimed he was persuaded by a group of North Korean defectors in the South, the South's intelligence unit and the U.S. to steal back into the socialist country to launch the attacks.

   He said he was first approached by a defector named Kim Song-min who heads an anti-North group in South Korea. Kim allegedly persuaded him to work for a defectors' organization which was set up to launch attacks on the statues of North Korea's founding father Kim Il-sung.

   Jon later met two South Korean intelligence agents and was promised remote-controlled explosives for the mission, he claimed.

   "I set February as the month for demolition, but the 'undertaking' had to be postponed until April as the explosive device was not prepared," he said. An attack in April "would spoil the atmosphere for celebrations of the Day of the Sun," Jon quoted South Korean agents as saying, in reference to centenary celebrations of the birthday of Kim Il-sung.

   "However, the 'undertaking' slated for April had to be postponed again because the explosive device was still not ready," he added. He said he was caught while loitering in a North Korean city bordering China in the early morning of June 19.

   In the conference, Jon said he had defected to the South in 2010 and stayed in the South Korea's re-education institution for defectors.

   A day after the North's accusation, the South Korean spy unit identified the defector as a 52-year-old of the same name who came to the South in November 2010. He spent three months in the rehabilitation facility before settling down in a town in Gangwon Province, the unit said.

   However, the North's accusations over the South Korean intelligence service's involvement are groundless, a spy agency official said. "The spy agents whom Jon identified at the conference do not even exist."

   Another government official also denied the terrorist attempt accusations, saying "Kim Song-min, who Jon accused of being involved, said he is not aware (of it)." "The accusations falsely blamed on the South seem to be aiming at diverting the source (of the alleged demolition attempts) outside of the country, mainly in order to solidify internal unity," another government official. It's regrettable that the North said so while the South is trying to reopen talks with them, he said.

   Reports in Seoul said Jon, formerly a drug addict and criminal while in the North, may have returned home after failing to adjust to the South and decided to cooperate in the North's anti-South campaign to avoid punishment for his defection.

   North Korean defectors who were acquainted with Jon expressed strong doubt he was on a perilous covert mission in the communist regime.

   They said that he was a typical swindler who failed to adjust to his new life in South Korea. "He used to be heavily involved in human and drug trafficking and worked for Chinese brokers while in North Korea," a North Korean defector said. "He was a troublemaker always thinking of an easy way to make money."

   A South Korean government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the North's intention behind the statements is likely to be to press the U.S. to resume dialogue with Pyongyang.

   "I think it is aimed at pressing the U.S. to change its stance," the official said, adding the statement was "interpreted as meaning that the U.S. should come forward for dialogue to ease sanctions against North Korea."

   With its defiant failed rocket launch, North Korea reneged on a Feb. 29 deal with the U.S. under which Washington would resume food aid to Pyongyang in return for a monitored shutdown of the North's nuclear activities.

   Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons program have been frozen since then, but North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun said recently in Cambodia that Pyongyang was ready to restart the six-nation talks.

   North Korea's official media also reported on June 29 that a North Korean woman named Pak Jong-suk had been lured by South Korean agents to defect to the South.

   According to the North's KCNA, Pak claimed during a news conference in Pyongyang earlier that day that she fled the socialist state on March 29, 2006, to meet her father who had settled in the South after the 1950-53 Korean War.

   She claimed she was tricked into defecting to the South, but returned to the North on May 25 this year.

   According to the report, Pak said North Korean defectors, frustrated with their lives in the South, want to return to their homeland. She called her own decision "foolish."

   Pak is one of some 24,000 North Koreans to have fled the impoverished communist state to settle in South Korea, but said that after struggling to assimilate into society and adjust to the capitalist way of life, she took the rare measure of returning to the North.

   "In the South, I did humble work, cleaning dirty toilets, washing dishes, serving the elderly -- which Southern people never do," Pak said, taking out a handkerchief to dab her eyes. "I didn't have any specific jobs, doing only volunteer work or manual labor, paid with lower salaries.

   "I hope many defectors return to the state security department," she said. "Dear Leader Kim Jong-un hasn't blamed me for my unforgivable sin at all, and even allowed me to live with my son and daughter-in-law in Pyongyang. My son is now able to continue teaching at the college (where he used to work)."

   Pak, who said she was 65 years old, recalled the reunion with her father, who was separated from his family after the Korean War, did not turn out as she had imagined.

   "On March 29, 2006, I secretly crossed the Tumen River and defected to China," Pak said at the press meeting. "It was a foolish idea to meet with my father in the South and ask him for money."

   Only once before has North Korea held an official press conference spotlighting a returned defector. In 2000, when Yu Tae-jun returned to the North, the regime held a press event to emphasize his struggles in the South and the benevolence of the late leader Kim Jong-il.

   This time, the press conference again focused on the hardships in the capitalist South and encouraged other defectors to follow Pak's path.
Meanwhile, North Korea's Red Cross in early July demanded the South Korean "puppet regime" stop abducting North Koreans and infringing on their human rights.

   In a statement, the North Korean Red Cross said there are many brokers and swindlers in border areas disguised as spy agents, priests and traders who attempt to lure and abduct "innocent" North Koreans to defect.