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North Korean Defector Turned TV Star Returns Home To Rail Against The South

A female North Korean soldier guards the banks of the Yalu River near the Chongsong county of North Korea opposite the Chinese border town of Hekou, northeastern China's Liaoning province May 31, 2009. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday the United States would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and he warned Pyongyang against transferring nuclear material overseas. REUTERS/Jason LeeA female North Korean soldier guards the banks of the Yalu River near the Chongsong county of North Korea opposite the Chinese border town of Hekou, northeastern China's Liaoning province May 31, 2009. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday the United States would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and he warned Pyongyang against transferring nuclear material overseas. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A North Korean woman who defected to South Korea has returned to the North, claiming that she did not enjoy her stay.

Jeon Hye Sung, who made an appearance on several South Korean television shows under the alias Lim Ji-hyun, returned home last month. She has since appeared on North Korean television, claiming that her life in the South was “painful” and “full of lies,” according to an exclusive report from South Korea’s Joongang Ilbo.

“I left North Korea back in January of 2014 and now returned just last month,” she explained on the show “Our Nation.” “I imagined that I could eat well and make a lot of money, but the reality was I drifted around bars and various places that only drained me physically and mentally. I wanted to make money and act, so I appeared on TV shows. Becoming an artist was my dream when I was young.”

Chun said that when she got into show business, she “couldn’t say anything except what was on the script.”

She stressed that she was instructed to make disparaging comments about North Korea.

“I viciously slandered my country,” she revealed. “The production crews told all of the defectors that we can’t say anything good about North Korea,” Chun explained, adding that they were also not allowed to point out lies by other defectors. She said that in some cases, producers would even ask her to fabricate stories about her country.

She said that she did what she was told because she was “blinded by money” and Western capitalism. She reportedly made good money and may have used it to get plastic surgery.

“My life in South Korea was lonely. I missed my parents. I told my fellow defectors that I was going to return to North Korea, but they told me that I would be killed for what I did back in South Korea,” the woman commented, explaining that she decided to return home anyway.

Re-defections are extremely rare, but they do occur. North Korea regularly uses these opportunities to criticize its southern neighbor. Sung appeared on a show for Uriminzokkiri, a prominent North Korean propaganda outlet, which call her claims into question.

Some observers have suggested that Sung may have been a North Korean spy or had ulterior motives from the start.

While any statements made on North Korean propaganda channels are suspicious, life for defectors in South Korea is difficult. Not only is there a certain degree of discrimination, but North Korean society is vastly different from South Korean society.

Unlike North Korea, the South embraces globalization, democratization, and massive economic development. The North Korean system intentionally denies these changes. North Korean defectors sometimes struggle with poverty, language barriers, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts, criminality, drug abuse, and a lack of education and employable skills, Sokeel Park, director of Research and Strategy for Liberty in North Korea, an international non-governmental organization that works with North Korean defectors, previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

North Koreans living in South Korea are reportedly three to four times more likely to end up prison than their local counterparts.

“Under the burden of livelihood difficulties and homesickness, more defectors tend to get involved in crimes with the number of defector prisoners on the rise,” South Korean Rep. Kang Chang-il reported last September.

When North Korean defectors arrive in South Korea, they are put into training programs at camps designed to introduce them to the world beyond their backwards homeland, but even then, defectors face significant challenges. Three defectors who returned to North Korea last year claimed they were treated as “second-class citizens” in the South, but again, their statements were made on North Korean television and should definitely be weighed in light of that fact.

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Ryan Pickrell
the authorRyan Pickrell
Holds a PhD in International Relations, fluent in Mandarin Chinese, reports on China and the Asia Pacific.

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