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S. Korea reforming NK defector interrogation system

All Headlines 17:24 July 28, 2014

SEOUL, July 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's state spy agency announced a set of measures Monday aimed at reforming ways to interrogate North Korean defectors, which have come under public scrutiny.

In a largely symbolic measure, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) changed the name of a controversial facility from a "joint interrogation center" to a "defector protection center."

It is the first stop here for North Korean defectors, where they face a painstaking probe into why they left the communist nation and other background checks, a process that lasts one week to a month.

If nothing suspicious is found, defectors stay for three months at Hanawon, a resettlement center in Ansong, 77 kilometers south of Seoul, before becoming South Korean citizens.

The name shift marks an initial step toward across-the-board improvement in protecting and interrogating North Korean defectors in their early days in South Korea, the NIS said in a press release.

The NIS has also ditched closed-door interrogations in a bid to enhance transparency and protect the human rights of defectors. With the ratio of female defectors hovering near 70 percent, the NIS added it plans to hire full-time female attorneys.

The NIS opened the joint interrogation center, also involving military intelligence officials, in 2008 to better sort out North Korean spies in the guise of defectors.

Controversy has erupted recently over its interrogation practices after a female North Korean defector claimed she had gone through mistreatment and threats there.

More than 26,000 North Koreans have formally entered the South since the 1950-53 Korean War. The number of North Korean defectors stood at around 1,500 in 2013 alone, according to Seoul's unification ministry.



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