Tue, Nov 20, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Soldier defected from North is general’s son

AFP, TOKYO

The North Korean soldier who defected to the South in a hail of bullets last year is a general’s son, but says most Northerners his age have no loyalty to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a Japanese newspaper reported.

Oh Chong-song’s dramatic dash across the border at the Panmunjom truce village in the demilitarized zone — under fire from his comrades — last year made global headlines and saw him hospitalized with serious injuries.

It is rare for the North’s troops to defect at Panmunjom, a major tourist attraction and the only place on the frontier where forces from the two sides come face-to-face.

The 25-year-old Oh is the son of a major general, the Sankei Shimbun reported, in what it said was the defector’s first media interview.

However, despite his privileged birth — he described himself as “upper class” — he felt no allegiance to the North’s leadership.

“Inside the North, people, and especially the younger generation, are indifferent to each other, politics and their leaders, and there is no sense of loyalty,” Oh said.

He was “indifferent” to the rule of Kim Jong-un, the third generation of the Kim family to lead the North, and had no interest in how his friends felt about it.

“Probably 80 percent of my generation is indifferent and has no loyalty,” he was quoted as saying. “It is natural to have no interest nor loyalty since the hereditary system is taken as a given, regardless of its inability to feed people.”

Oh denied media reports in the South that he was wanted for murder in the North.

After some unspecified trouble with friends, Oh started drinking, the newspaper reported, adding that on his way back to his post, he broke through a checkpoint and, fearing execution, decided to keep going.

“I feared I could be executed if I went back, so I crossed the border,” he was quoted as saying, adding that he had no regrets about defecting.

Japanese intelligence officials confirmed Oh’s identity, the newspaper said.

A video posted on the newspaper’s Web site shows Oh wearing a black jacket and white top, and speaking with a slight North Korean accent. His face is not revealed.

The South Korean Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs including the resettlement of defectors, declined to comment on the interview and said it does not keep tabs on defectors after they are released from resettlement centers.

Lee Cook-jong, the South Korean doctor who treated Oh, said in a radio interview last month that the defector had secured a job and bought a car, adding that he had nearly lost his North Korean accent.

The geopolitical landscape around the Korean Peninsula has shifted dramatically since last year when US President Donald Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on the nuclear-armed North Korea.

“I really felt that we were on the verge of war with the US,” Oh was quoted as saying. “The tension [that I felt] trickled down from the top.”

A rapid rapprochement has taken hold on the Korean Peninsula and troops in the border truce village where he defected are to be disarmed.

Oh said he understands why his former comrades shot him.

“If they didn’t shoot, they would face heavy punishment,” he said. “So if I was them, I would have done the same.”

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