The son of the highest-profile South Korean to defect to North Korea has arrived in the North to permanently resettle, North Korean state media said, an unusual case of a South Korean defecting to the impoverished, authoritarian North.
The state-run Uriminzokkiri website reported that Choe In-guk, about 72, arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, on Saturday to dedicate the rest of his life to Korean unification at the guidance of leader Kim Jong Un.
Choe said he decided to live in North Korea because it was his parents’ “dying wishes” for him to “follow” North Korea and work for its unification with South Korea, according to a written statement published on the website.
Some analysts say North Korea accepted Choe In-guk so it could use him as a propaganda tool to tell its citizens its system is superior to South Korea’s.
Choe is the son of former South Korean Foreign Minister Choe Dok-shin, who defected to North Korea with his wife in 1986, years after he was reportedly embroiled in a corruption scandal and political disputes with then-South Korean President Park Chung-hee. Before his 1986 defection to North Korea, the senior Choe had lived in the United States for about a decade and was a vocal critic of Park, who ruled South Korea with an iron fist from 1961 to 1979.
South Koreans have occasionally defected to North Korea in the past, but it has become a rarity in recent years, especially since the North suffered a crippling famine in the mid-1990s that is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.