Kim Ryon-hui says she is stuck in South Korea against her will, and is accused of National Security Law violations
A North Korean defector who has demanded repatriation, claiming she was tricked by a defection broker and came to South Korea by mistake, is once again in danger of arrest.
Police are closing in with their investigation of Kim Ryon-hui, 48, and considering requesting an arrest warrant for her on charges of National Security Law violations. In response, Kim and civic groups supporting her held a press conference on June 14 to demand her repatriation.
The Daegu Metropolitan Police Agency’s security investigation team is currently investigating Kim on charges of encouragement and praise of North Korea and infiltration and escape according to the National Security Law. Kim is being charged with posting materials praising the North Korean regime on her Facebook page in Apr. 2016, including a video commemorating the Day of the Sun (a holiday celebrating the birthday of North Korean founding leader Kim Il-sung) and a song cheering for Kim.
Police are also charging Kim in connection with statements she made in a 2015 interview with the Hankyoreh. Her Feb. 2016 visit to the Vietnamese embassy in South Korea to demand to be sent to North Korea is also being seen as a National Security Law violation.
“Kim’s remarks are something we are obliged to investigate according to domestic law,” a police source said.
“We are considering an arrest warrant request because we have sent three summonses to Kim as of June 13 demanding that she appear, and she has refused all of them,” the source added.
In Apr. 2015, Kim received a two-year jail sentence suspended for three years for making a telephone call to a North Korean consulate in China, which is considered meeting or communicating with North Korea according to the National Security Law. Kim claims that at the time that she was trying to alert North Korea to her detention and request rescue were not accepted by the court.
An umbrella organization of 35 civic groups calling itself the Countermeasures Council to Resolve Allegations of the Orchestrated Defection of North Korean Overseas Restaurant Employees held a press conference in front of Cheongwoon Hyojadong Community Service Center near the Blue House the same morning to protest investigators’ pressure tactics against Kim. Members of the organization argued that Kim was essentially being detained by force and demanded that she be sent back to North Korea.
Kim has demanded her own repatriation.
“I’ve heard the National Assembly voted to attempt reunions of divided [South and North Korean] families. I doubt that the administration has any intention of truly resolving the aching cries of divided families or the heartrending longing and suffering,” she said.
The Ministry of Unification maintains that Kim’s repatriation is not allowed by domestic law.
“I’m not demanding to be sent back to the North because I lived in South Korea for a while and regretted it,” Kim said in a June 14 telephone interview with the Hankyoreh. “I‘m a North Korean citizen detained in South Korea by the National Intelligence Service against my will.
”Instead of sending me to prison again, they should send me home through Panmunjeom.“