Nine young North Korean defectors were not forcibly repatriated by Laos but succumbed to coercion and threats from North Korean agents and chose to return home, an activist said Thursday.
Kim Sung-min of Free North Korea Radio on Wednesday quoted a source in North Korea as saying five North Korean agents met the young refugees individually at the Lao immigration detention center every day between May 20 and May 27 to badger them into going back to the North.
The agents took advantage of the youth and inexperience of the nine refugees, who are believed to be orphans and ranged in age between 15 and 23.
The agents used alternative threats and promises to beat the youngsters into submission, telling them they had no hope of ever reaching South Korea and promising them opportunities to study in the North.
"The young defectors must have been persuaded in the one-on-one interviews with the agents. Once one of them started to waver, the other youngsters also decided to go back," Kim said. "The kids then started a loyalty competition among themselves" because they feared they would be given a hard time in the North if they didn't make a show of supporting the regime.
On May 27 they told Lao immigration officials they were going back of their own free will and were deported.