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(LEAD) N. Korean videos show families of defectors to S. Korea

All Headlines 15:41 March 09, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with more interviews; ADDS background throughout; RECASTS headline, lead)
By Sam Kim

SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- In an apparent emotional appeal, North Korea on Wednesday released the footage of interviews with its citizens believed to be family members of four North Koreans who defected to South Korea after their fishing boat carrying 27 others drifted here last month.

The footage, released through Pyongyang's official Web site, Uriminzokkiri, marks a new phase in the deadlock between the two Koreas over the fate of 31 North Koreans who arrived here amid foggy weather through the tense Yellow Sea border on Feb. 5.

Twenty-seven of them have expressed their desire to return home while four, including the skipper, told the South Korean authorities during a month of questioning that they wanted to stay.

Since last week, North Korea has accused the South of either coercing or persuading the four into defection. South Korea denies the charge and says it is ready to prove to the North that the defectors have decided to stay out of their genuine willingness.

"Daddy, I want to see you. Return quickly," Hong Ji-hyang, believed to be the daughter of a 44-year-old defector, said in an interview.

"The South Korean puppets are detaining my daughter who drifted in bad weather," Kim Ok-jin, claiming to be the mother of a 22-year-old defector, said, blaming Seoul for "harshly trampling on the parents' hearts yearning for their daughter's return."

In another interview apparently involving the family of the 38-year-old skipper, the North quoted a woman who appeared to be his sister-in-law as saying that she was "speechless and mortified."

It appeared in the Uriminzokkiri report that the skipper's older brother was also among the group of 31 North Koreans who came to South Korea, as the woman claimed her husband was also among them.

Ri Jong-hwa and Bong Yon-cheol, believed to be the parents of a 21-year-old defector, said their family, including their son serving in the army, endured numerous sleepless nights after the boat went adrift.

North Korea refuses to accept its 27 nationals unless the South repatriates the four others who are wishing to stay. Earlier Wednesday, South Korea made its fourth formal appeal since last week for the North to open its border for crossings, according to the Unification Ministry here.

Ministry officials said the four defectors will soon undergo a process of resettlement in South Korea just as any other from North Korea would once they arrive here. Sources say they are staying in a separate location from their 27 other countrymen, who are waiting at a military facility in the western port city of Incheon.

Over 20,000 North Korean defectors have arrived in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce. Most of them flee via China and other countries due to the heavily fortified border that separates the two Koreas.

Earlier this week, North Korea proposed briefly reuniting the families of defectors at a border truce village straddling the two Koreas, demanding that its authorities be allowed to verify the claim that the defection of the North Korean nationals was genuine.

The proposed Wednesday meeting between the Red Cross officials of the two sides did not take place, as the South refused to bring the four North Korean defectors to Panmunjom.

Relations between the Koreas are at the worst point in at least a decade after the North bombarded a South Korean island and killed four people in November last year.


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