N Korean defector jailed for sending 130 tonnes of rice plus cash as a ‘loyalty gift’ to Pyongyang

19-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A North Korean defector to the South was on Friday sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail for sending 130 tonnes of rice to her homeland as a “loyalty gift”.

It is an open secret North Korean defectors living in the South send small amounts of money to their relatives in the North but this case also involved an extraordinary amount of money sent to the North’s state security agency.

Upholding a lower court decision, the Seoul High Court rejected the accused’s claims she sent the rice to ensure the welfare of her son, who was left behind in the North when she defected to the South via China in 2011.

The woman, 50, has since made a small fortune by operating a massage parlour in the South. She sent 130 tonnes of rice in two instalments to coincide with the April 15 birthday of the North’s founding father Kim Il-sung in 2016 and the January 8 birthday of the current leader Kim Jong-un, via an intermediary associated with the North’s security agency. She also sent 80 million won (US$71,000) to the broker to send an additional 70 tonnes of rice to the impoverished state.

North Korean defectors: Fleeing the homeland

The court accepted prosecutors’ charges she sent the rice to prove her loyalty to Pyongyang as she sought to return to the North to reunite with her son, who has failed in his attempts to follow his mother in defecting to the South.

Prosecutors charged her with providing the North with illegal aid in breach of the strict National Security Law.

“Although the accused has a son left in the North, it can’t be allowed by the state to send a large amount of rice that would help the North’s regime considerably,” the court said.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in December said North Korea will need to import 641,000 tonnes of food in 2019, up from 456,000 tonnes in 2018, when it bought 390,000 tonnes and received 66,000 tonnes in food aid.



Category: Korea

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