South Korean president urges N. Koreans to defect

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South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye (right)
waves to the crowd during Armed Forces Day
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called on
North Koreans to abandon their country Saturday
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, the president
invited North Koreans to relocate to the “bosom of
freedom” in the South.
“We are well aware of the gruesome realities you
face,” said Park during a speech marking the
country’s Armed Forces Day.
“The universal values of freedom, democracy,
human rights and welfare are the precious rights
you should also enjoy,” she added.
“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.”
The call comes a month after North Korea’s deputy
ambassador to Britain defected to South Korea,
handing Seoul 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.
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.
In April, 12 waitresses and their manager who had
been working at a North Korea-themed restaurant
in China made headlines when they arrived in
South Korea in a rare group defection.
Over the years, nearly 30,000 North Koreans have
fled poverty and repression in their country and
settled in the South.
But the number of defectors — who once
numbered more than 2,000 a year — has nearly
halved since Kim Jong-Un took power after the
death of his father and former leader Kim Jong-Il
in December 2011.
Those who still managed to flee in recent years
often had families already settled in the South, or
were relatively well-off and well-connected
members of the elite in search of better lives.
The latest defection occurred Friday when a man
crossed the military demarcation line on the
central-eastern part of the border. There was no
exchange of fire.

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