Divorced and out of money, Kwon Chol-nam fled North Korea for China in 2014 by wading across a river border at night and then crawling over a barbed-wire fence. After a perilous trek that included walking through a jungle in Laos, he reached Thailand, where he was allowed to fly to South Korea to start a new life.
After all that trouble and danger, Mr. Kwon now wants South Korea to allow him to return home to the North.
“You have to ride a horse to know whether it’s the right mount for you,” Mr. Kwon said in an interview in Seoul. “I have tried, and the South is not for me. I want to go home to the North to reunite with my ex-wife and 16-year-old son.”
North Korea is one of the world’s most politically repressive countries. No matter. Mr. Kwon says he has grown disillusioned with life in the capitalist South, where he says North Korean defectors like him are treated like second-class citizens.
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