North Korean defectors and the ROK Army
|North Korean defectors hold protest in Seoul
on November 29, 2010 (Source: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Public Radio International’s The World carried an interesting report by Jason Struther this week on the desire of some North Korean refugees to fight liberate their former state.
South Korea is understandably reluctant (but unwilling to talk about why):
Andrei Lankov, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Kookmin University, said in the past both Koreas trained defectors to infiltrate enemy lines. But times have changed, he said, and there are at least two good reasons these North Korean defectors should not be armed.
“One is that a creation of such a group, especially if it’s publicized to some extent, will be seen to the North Koreans as a provocation, and indeed this is a provocation, ” he said. “Second, if you arm these people, most of whom are ideologically motivated and probably quite selfless people who have nothing to lose, and who are determined to fight for their cause, well, you will create a loose cannon.”
Lankov added that the Ministry of Defense is probably also concerned that these defectors could be spies.
In the event of a war, former North Korean soldiers could work as pathfinders and guides, and it is hard to believe that Seoul has not considered this eventuality. However, as Lankov states above, the creation of the unit would be a provocation – such a unit could only be created with the intention of toppling the Kim regime. There would be no disguising it. In addition, going public on such a move would open the door to agents posing as refugees in the future (if not some of those already in the South). Thus, for the sake of the cease-fire and their security, South Korea couldn’t even admit such a unit even if it existed.