South Korean President Park Geun-hye has called on North Koreans to abandon their country and defect, just a day after a soldier walked across the heavily fortified border into the South.
In a rare message directly addressed to rank-and-file troops and North Korean citizens, during a speech marking the country’s Armed Forces Day, the president on Saturday invited North Koreans to relocate to the “bosom of freedom” in the South.
“The universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights and welfare are the precious rights you should also enjoy. We will keep the road open for you to find hope and live a new life. Please come to the bosom of freedom in the South whenever you want.”
Park said defections by North Koreas fleeing hunger and oppression were increasing “drastically”. “There have been persistent defections, even by North Korean elites who have been supporting the regime”, she said.
The call comes a month after North Korea’s deputy ambassador to Britain defected to South Korea, handing the country a major propaganda coup at a time of rising tension on the divided Korean peninsula.
Ties between the two Koreas are at the lowest ebb since the height of Cold War in the 1970s, with Pyongyang test-firing more than 20 missiles and carrying out two nuclear tests this year alone.