The Korea Herald

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[Exclusive] North Korea tightens watch on elite exodus

By Kim Arin

Published : June 18, 2023 - 17:56

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North Korea has recently tightened controls on elites stationed abroad to stop them from defecting, South Korean intelligence authorities found.

According to a National Intelligence Service document obtained by the National Assembly, North Korea is keeping even closer track of its officials working at diplomatic and other offices overseas.

Wary that they may take advantage of loosened border controls post-COVID, North Korea has “scaled up surveillance” on overseas officials, the document said, by implementing a “multilevel” monitoring system that includes a ban on solo travels and tracking on their cellphones.

In China and Russia in particular, North Korea is working closely with authorities there to identify and track down defectors.

In addition to the beefed up surveillance and crackdown, North Korea is allegedly expanding its brainwashing program known as “ideological training” aimed at fostering hostility against South Korea.

After the inauguration of Yoon Suk Yeol administration, which is more welcoming of defectors from North Korea than under the liberal President Moon Jae-in, North Korea fears that more might be trying to flee, South Korean intelligence authorities believe.

Over the first year of the Yoon administration, eight elite defectors including their family members came to South Korea. The number of elite defectors and their family averaged five during the five years of the Moon administration.

The document noted that in the past year there have been growing signs of North Koreans on overseas assignments deserting their posts to defect to a third country.