I wish more leftists tried this.
The agents offered him an important job working as an economist for the North Korean government and promised to provide free treatment for his wife’s hepatitis.
Oh took the offer seriously. He had just completed his PhD in Germany on a Marxist economist. Back at home in South Korea, he had been active in left-wing groups opposed to the country’s authoritarian regime.
. . . .
So at the end of November 1985, Oh, his wife and two young daughters travelled via East Berlin and Moscow to Pyongyang.
When they arrived at Pyongyang airport, Oh began to see he had made a mistake in coming. Communist party officials and children clutching flowers were there to meet them. But despite the cold of a North Korean December, the children were not wearing socks and their traditional clothes were so thin that they shivered. “When I saw this I was really surprised and my wife even started to cry.”
Communist party officials drove Oh and his family to what they described as a guest house. The building was inside a camp in the mountains and guarded by soldiers. There was no treatment for Shin’s hepatitis and no job for Oh as an economist. Instead, for several months, North Koreans indoctrinated them in the teachings of The Great Leader Kim Il-sung, the founder of the current regime.
Oh and his wife began working for a North Korean radio station. “My wife began as a broadcaster but she was not able to carry on for long. Her health had deteriorated and at the same time she was quite critical of the North.”
Oh was less independent. “I began to read scripts based on party directives – in the end, I was like a parrot.”
While he was there he came across South Koreans who had been abducted, including two air stewardesses and two passengers from a Korean Air Lines flight that had been hijacked by North Koreans in 1969.
Oh was approached to go on a mission abroad. He was to be based in the North Korean embassy in Copenhagen, from where he could do what had been done to him – lure South Korean students in Germany to the North Korean embassy.
When Shin heard about the plan she was furious. “I remember the two of us talking about it softly under the blanket. I told my wife that by fulfilling this mission, we would preserve our livelihood in North Korea. But she slapped me in the face.”
Shin said they would have to pay the price for his mistakes – he could not entrap others.
“She told me I had to find a way to escape when I got to Europe, that there would be a way to rescue the family.”
On arriving at Copenhagen airport, Oh managed to escape from North Korean control. “I approached the immigration desk. I had a little piece of paper on which I had written: HELP ME. I explained that the passport they were seeing was not my real passport, that my real name was Oh Kil-nam, and that my real passport had been confiscated in North Korea.”
After two months in jail in Denmark, the Danish authorities sent Oh to Germany. There he tried to free his family, but with no luck. “My biggest mistake was not to approach the German Foreign Ministry directly.”
For Shin and her two daughters, Oh’s defection was catastrophic. They were taken to Yodok concentration camp, where the North Korean government imprisons its enemies. The conditions in this slave labour camp are reportedly as bad as anything in Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Gulag. (Read more)