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.”


North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

Updated 20 September 2019

North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

  • South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme
  • Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, although a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people

SEOUL: North Korea’s crop production this year is expected to drop to its lowest level in five years, bringing serious shortages for 40 percent of the population, as a dry spell and poor irrigation hit an economy already reeling from sanctions over its weapons programs, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In its latest quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the poor harvest of the country’s main crops, rice and maize, means 10.1 million people are in urgent need of assistance.
“Below-average rains and low irrigation availability between mid-April and mid-July, a critical period for crop development, mainly affected the main season rice and maize crops,” the FAO said. The report, which covers cereal supply and demand around the world and identifies countries that need external food aid, didn’t disclose detailed estimates of production by volume.
North Korea has long struggled with food shortages and a dysfunctional state rationing system, and state media has in recent months warned of drought and other “persisting abnormal phenomena.”
The crops shortfall comes as the country bids to contain the spread of African swine fever in its pig herd, following confirmation of a first case in May.
The disease, fatal to pigs though not harmful to humans, has spread into Asia — including South Korea — since first being detected in China last year, resulting in large-scale culls and reduced production of pork, a staple meat across the region including in North Korea.
The FAO report followed earlier UN assessments this year that the isolated country’s food production last year fell to its lowest level in more than a decade amid a prolonged heatwave, typhoon and floods.
South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). But its delivery has been delayed by Pyongyang’s lukewarm response amid stalled inter-Korean dialogue and denuclearization talks with the United States, Seoul officials said.
In July, the North’s official KCNA news agency said a campaign to mitigate the effects of drought was under way by digging canals and wells, installing pumps, and using people and vehicles to transport water.
But North Korea has told the United Nations to cut the number of its staff it deploys in the country for aid programs. citing the “politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces.”
Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, but observers said a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people.