Defectors signal more doubts about North Korea

May 31, 1996
Web posted at: 9:35 a.m. EDT (1335 GMT)

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Two more North Korean defectors arrived in Seoul Friday, seeking political asylum. (351K QuickTime movie)

The two -- scientist Chung Kab-ryol and writer Chang Hae-song -- held hands as they approached the throng of reporters who greeted their arrival at Seoul's Kimpo airport from Hong Kong.

"Thank you very much for warmly receiving us like this," Chung said. "I'm overwhelmed with happiness and don't know what to say."

South Korean observers say these latest defections, combined with last week's defection of a North Korean air force captain who flew into Seoul in his MiG-19 jet, signal a growing dissatisfaction with life in the North.

"The fact that elite North Koreans are fleeing the society illustrates the loosening of the North Korean regime's control," said Yu Suk-ryul, a senior fellow at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.

South Korean state television said that Chung, a researcher at a Pyongyang research institute, won a silver medal at an international technology convention in Geneva last month. He was reportedly afraid to return home, fearing he would be punished for not winning a gold medal.

Chang reportedly fled to China in January after he criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in a conversation that was reported to authorities.

North Korean air force captain Li Chol-su flew his jet plane over the demilitarized zone a week ago, saying he wanted to escape rampant corruption in the North.

About 600 defectors from North Korea live in the South, and South Korean officials say more than 100 have left the North in the past two years.

The two Koreas have been at odds since the 1950-53 Korean War. South Korea and the United States have proposed four-way talks -- involving both Koreas, the U.S. and China -- aimed at establishing a permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. North Korea has asked for more details of the proposal, but has not responded formally.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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