North Korean authorities, fearful that more and more citizens are looking to defect to South Korea, have begun an education campaign aimed at discouraging their fantasies of a better life in the South.
The lecture sessions are being held for residents living close to the military demarcation line that separates the two Koreas, and focuses specifically on the drawbacks of capitalism while espousing the virtues of a socialist economy.
Sources say that the lessons highlight how many defectors fail to settle successfully in the South.
“Heads of households and housewives [living near the border] must unconditionally attend the lecture sessions,” said a source from South Hwanghae province in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service.
“The title of the lecture is ‘The Two Different Realities of North and South Through Mothers’,” the source said.
“They claim South Korea is a rotten society where everything is controlled by money and women’s rights are trampled on down there,” said the source.
According to the source, the lecturers claim that ‘puppets in the South’ create a rosy illusion about capitalism to deceive North Koreans.
“[The ‘puppets’] accuse North Korea of violating human rights as if [the South] was a society that grants equal rights and welfare [to its own citizens]. The lecturers say they need to dispel any fantasies we might have about South Korea, especially pertaining to women’s rights there,” said the source.
The lecture session draws upon the experiences of ex-defectors, who actually made it to the South, but later returned North.
“They mention the real names of defectors who returned to North Korea, saying that after betraying their country and fleeing to South Korea, the defectors live miserable lives. [They are] creating an atmosphere of fear,” the source said.
A second source, from North Hamgyong province, said lectures such as these happen whenever Pyongyang senses political turmoil.
“When the domestic and international situation gets tense, the Central Committee [of the Korean Workers’ Party] prepare ‘political project materials for border area residents’ and give special lectures to those living near the demarcation line,” said the second source.
Even though leader Kim Jong Un peacefully met with his U.S. counterpart President Donald Trump in the Panmunjom Joint Security Area on June 30, there has been no thaw of anti-capitalist rhetoric in the North.
“The Central Committee has continued ideological projects that promote antagonism against the U.S. and South Korea, [even since the meeting],” the second source said.
North Korea as a ‘paradise for women’
“The lectures promote the superiority of [North Korea’s] socialist system, which would be impossible for capitalism to imitate or possess,” said the second source, adding, “[The lectures] particularly try to stroke women’s sense of maternal love.”
“They emphasize how women should have a passionate love for their children and enlist them in the army to raise them as pillars of a strong North Korea,” the second source said.
“They also said that socialist North Korea is a women’s paradise that guarantees the rights of women, while throwing shade at capitalist societies for their treatment of women, saying they are wastelands when it comes to women’s rights,” said the second source.
“But the women who [are forced] to listen to this drivel aren’t buying it. They say that North Korean women are the most pitiful [in the world], since [they] are frequently mobilized to participate in many work projects and are under pressure to produce many children,” said the second source.
While it is true that many North Korean defectors experience difficulty integrating into South Korean society and several have re-defected to North Korea, numerous defectors have led successful lives in the South, including as business owners, media personalities and highly skilled professionals.
More than 30,000 North Koreans have made their way to South Korea in recent decades, and women make up the overwhelming majority. According to statistics kept by the South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, in 2017 71% of all registered defectors living in the South were women.
Only 28 defectors re-defected between 2012 and 2017 according to the ministry’s figures.
Reported by Hyemin Son for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.