Over the last week, KBS has reported on a small group of defectors from North Korea, including a major-general who handled Kim Jong Un’s overseas slush funds and who is reportedly asking for asylum in China.
According to the article, the defectors came with a North Korean diplomat they were separated from, who was also defecting but looking to seek asylum in another country. The general was there on business when he met up with three others on July 12.
A few things are rare about this report. For starters, most reported defections are to South Korea rather than China. Even rarer is that this is considered the second time that a member of North Korea’s top leadership has defected. However, one media source refers to a case in 1997, when a top commander, Hwang Jang Yop, defected. At the very least, this would be the third case of a major leadership defection in 19 years.
The report refers to the second case that was originally reported by South Korean news agency Yonhap in April, when a colonel had defected to Seoul last year.
In the Yonhap report, it is said that the colonel is from North Korea’s spy agency and was responsible for handling intelligence for the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which was responsible for hacking Sony Pictures after the company released a comedy about assassinating Kim Jong-un called The Interview.
The same media sources also refer to the widely reported defection of a group of North Korean restaurant workers in Beijing who were apparently influenced by South Korean television.
Many of the news sources reporting on these defections are questionable, which, according to Voice of America, has a lot to do with discouraging defections to China over South Korea.
Although far below pre-Kim Jong Un levels, North Korean defectors entering the South expected to increase in 2016. pic.twitter.com/dwWEOcvqgI
— KEI (@KoreaEconInst) June 9, 2016
For one, the idea that recent top-level North Korean commanders have defected could be a sign of instability, but due to the questionable reporting of DPRK state media, much of the stories coming out of North Korea are unreliable.
Voice of America says that those who have defected to China could have a spontaneous response to the public reporting of defectors there, which puts them at risk of delaying the process in providing asylum. As a result, negotiations between South Korea and China are likely being done in secret.
The United States has reportedly enforced tighter sanctions around North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for human rights violations and failed missile testings, which threaten the border between them and the South. North Korea has said that they are working on a missile system that can reach North America, which is also a threat.
But as the Sony hacks showed, North Korea has positioned itself to be a constant threat to the United States and surrounding nations, where they’ve responded to new sanctions as a declaration of war against them.
The United States has also been accused by China and Russia of creating tension in the region over its decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system to protect its South Korean ally.
Japan has also however recently expressed outrage at North Korea’s recent missile testing, which resulted in one missile landing in the Sea of Japan, according to CBS News.
Many of the reports coming out of the area seem to indicate that Kim Jong-un has had about 70 military leaders executed in order to purge the government of a potential coup against him over the last several years. But there have also been reports of mass executions of civilians and prisoners as well.
Much of the sanctions put on North Korea have been so strict that countries who used to do business with the “hermit kingdom” have pulled back from their relationship rather than risk violating the sanctions, which Inquisitr reported on. That would have severe repercussions to anyone dealing with them, including China.
[Photo by Ng Han Guan/AP Images]