North Korean defector Kim Kwang-ho originally defected to South Korea in 2009 with his wife and had a daughter there, but for obscure reasons returned to North Korea and ended up paraded before the state media in January this year in an effort to denounce life in South Korea. He was later arrested for stating he ate better in South Korea.
The South Korean government will make the case that Kim remains a South Korean citizen and will ask China to send his in-laws to South Korea on humanitarian grounds.
“Although Kim and his wife returned to the North after settling in the South, they are clearly South Korean citizens,” said a government official on Monday. “We believe the Chinese government will consider this fact. If it sends a South Korean citizen to North Korea, the decision could turn into a major diplomatic problem.”
A spokesman for activist group NK Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea, who helped the family defect again, said Kim and his relatives are being held in China’s Yanbian Province. Other activists said Chinese security forces conducted a massive manhunt to capture them, and they were captured on Sunday in the mountains surrounding Yanji.
Activists believe North Korea must have sought China’s help to catch Kim and his family. When it was reported that Kim succeeded in fleeing North Korea again by bribing border guards, North Korea belatedly started tracking the Kims down and asked China to arrest them.
A government source in Seoul said Sunday, “It seems the Chinese government is trying to buy time in handling Kim Kwang-ho’s case. The reason they’re refusing the South Korean consul’s requests to interview Kim’s family is because it has not determined Kim’s nationality.”
If Beijing allows the South Korean consul to interview Kim and his family, it means it recognizes them as South Korean, and that puts China under pressure given that the case is sensitive for both Koreas.