[NK News] Seoul to allow private groups to interview new North Korean defectors again

26 Jan 2023

NK News reports on the South Korean government's re-opening of the access to conducting surveys at South Korea's resettlement center for newly arrived defectors. In this article, NKDB chief executive director Yoon Yeo-sang, and NKDB board chairman Shin Young-ho were quoted.

Yoon Yeo-sang, the chief executive director of NKDB, told NK News Thursday that it’s a “positive development” that Hanawon is reopening to private groups but said the ministry’s announcement does not provide sufficient information. “Usually we did surveys with all the people in Hanawon before, but because there are no details about that we’re not sure of how things will exactly proceed,” Yoon said, distinguishing the 10-person “in-depth interviews” from large-scale surveys. He said he found the allowance for 10-person interviews in the new application process “interesting,” noting that NKDB used to interview that many people before 2020, when the government sought to reduce this figure to seven.

In the article, it was particularly noted that NKDB was the only civil society organization that conducted interviews with the North Korean defectors at Hanawon, before the suspension.

“By cutting off NKDB’s access to Hanawon, the Ministry of Unification is diminishing civil society space and civil society-led efforts for documentation of human rights violations in the DPRK,” NKDB board chairperson Shin Young-ho said in a statement announcing the suspension in Sept. 2020.

The ministry subsequently told NK News that it decided to restrict access to Hanawon to prevent possible secondary human rights violations from repetitive investigations and to protect defectors’ personal information. 

However, NKDB had previously refuted such concerns in its statement, saying its surveys did not lead to unnecessary duplication and would not re-traumatize defectors as they were conducted with the subjects’ express consent.

Read the full article on NK News' website HERE