In July last year, a North Korean defector from South Korea swam at night by the sea back home. On the contrary, after a few months, a North Korean managed to climb the barbed wire on the border and thus reach the southern neighbor.
“In addition to the New Year’s Day incident, these matters are embarrassing to the South Korean military,” van der Veen said. A South Korean general was fired last year as a result of a defector’s return. Such a scenario might now be apparent, too.
If the person who crossed the border on New Year’s Day is still alive, then nothing good awaits him in North Korea, according to van der Veen. “In the worst case scenario, he will be shot on the spot. Because of the epidemic, all border guards are under Shoot when you see the target-bevel.”
In September, for example, a South Korean official was shot dead by North Korean soldiers because he was sailing a small boat in the border area.
The communist regime hopes to keep the coronavirus at bay with these kinds of drastic measures. On paper, it worked: according to official statistics, no infection has yet been identified in North Korea. “No one outside believes these reports, but it is unclear how much the impact of Covid-19 really is.”
severe food shortage
Since the pandemic, Kim Jong Un’s country has isolated itself more from the outside world. All borders have been closed for nearly two years now. Even trade with its main ally China has largely stopped.
“Kim has said many times that there is an acute shortage of food,” says van der Veen. If the great commander admitted it openly, experts feared that the actual situation could be much worse. A United Nations rapporteur recently warned that vulnerable children and the elderly are at risk of starvation.
So even if the supposed defector isn’t shot right away, the outlook for him or her is bleak. When it comes to a North Korean person, he could be punished for defecting before. If it is a senior South Korean official, it can be used for propaganda purposes.
“Something like this usually ends tragically,” Brooker sums up.
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