North Korean soldier defector a general’s son

North Korean soldier Oh Chong Song drives along a road leading to the truce village of Panmunjom in this screengrab made from video footage released by the United Nations Command on November 22, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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North Korean soldier defector a general’s son

TOKYO: The North Korean soldier who defected to the South in a hail of bullets last year is a general’s son but says most Northerners of his age have no loyalty to Kim Jong Un, according to a Japanese newspaper.
Oh Chong Song’s dramatic dash across the border at the Panmunjom truce village in the Demilitarized Zone — under fire from his comrades — made global headlines last year, and saw him hospitalized with serious injuries.
It is very rare for the North’s troops to defect at Panmunjom, a major tourist attraction and the only place on the frontier where forces from the two sides come face-to-face.
The 25-year-old Oh is the son of a major-general, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported, in what it said was the defector’s first media interview.
But despite his privileged birth — he described himself as “upper class” — he felt no allegiance to the North’s leadership.
“Inside the North, people, and especially the younger generation, are indifferent to each other, politics, and their leaders, and there is no sense of loyalty.”
He was “indifferent” to the rule of Kim Jong Un, the third generation of the Kim family to lead the North, and had no interest in how his friends felt about it.
“Probably 80 percent of my generation is indifferent and has no loyalty,” he was quoted as saying.
“It is natural to have no interest nor loyalty since the hereditary system is taken as a given, regardless of its inability to feed people.”
Oh denied media reports in the South that he was wanted for murder in the North.
After some unspecified trouble with friends, the Sankei said, he started drinking. On his way back to his post he broke through a checkpoint and, fearing execution, decided to keep going.
“I feared I could be executed if I went back so I crossed the border,” he was quoted as saying, adding he had no regrets about defecting.
The newspaper said Japanese intelligence officials had confirmed Oh’s identity.
A short clip posted by the Sankei Shimbun on its website shows him wearing a black jacket and a white top, speaking with a slight North Korean accent. His face is not revealed.
The geopolitical landscape around the Korean peninsula has shifted dramatically since last year when US President Donald Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on the nuclear-armed North Korea.
“I really felt that we were on the verge of war with the US,” Oh was quoted as saying. “The tension (that I felt) trickled down from the top.”
Now a rapid rapprochement has taken hold on the peninsula and troops in the border truce village where he defected are to be disarmed.
Oh said he understands the former comrades who shot him.
“If they didn’t shoot they would face heavy punishment,” he said. “So if I was them, I would have done the same.”


Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

Updated 2 min 13 sec ago
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Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

  • Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions
CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh: A fire tore through a slum in southern Bangladesh on Sunday killing at least 9 people and destroying hundreds of shanty homes, police said.
The blaze broke out in the port city of Chittagong at about 3.30 A.M. and raced through the district of bamboo, tin and tarpaulin homes, said local police chief Pranab Chowdhury.
“At least 470 shanties were destroyed by the fire. So far 9 people have died. They included four members of a family,” fire brigade official Hefazatul Islam said.
Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions.
Rights groups have in the past alleged some shanty town blazes were deliberate acts of sabotage by developers seeking to free up property to construct multi-story buildings.
“We have seen fires are used as a weapon to evict poor slum dwellers and squatters from government or private property,” rights activist Nur Khan Liton said.