Pyongyang Orders Diplomats’ Children Home


(By: Alexander Martin) Worried about possible threats to regime stability from North Korean children educated abroad, Pyongyang has ordered its diplomats and state trading company officials stationed overseas to send their children back to the North, an expert on the secretive regime says.

Kansai University Prof. Lee Young Hwa said the order was the first of its kind passed under the North’s young leader Kim Jong Un, according to information he received from a North Korean trading official in China. The order, with a deadline set for the end of September, allows only one child per household to stay with each official abroad.

The order apparently stems from Pyongyang’s concern that children receiving an overseas education could undermine stability by spreading information about the outside world, or defecting.

The revelation follows reports earlier this week that the daughter of a senior North Korean official has sought asylum in South Korea.

“There’s opposition and discontent against the sudden order, and the government is stepping up control to prevent deviance,” Mr. Lee quoted the trading company official as saying.

A similar order was issued in 2007 under then-leader Kim Jong Il, affecting around 3,000 children of North Korean diplomats in around 50 countries. Media reports from the time said the order was met with defiance as diplomats refused to send their children back home. Mr. Lee said he expected a similar reaction against the latest measure.

“There are rumors the order will be retracted or its deadline delayed as happened back in 2007,” Mr. Lee quoted the North Korean official as saying.

Earlier this week, South Korean and other media reported that the teenage daughter of a top public security official in Pyongyang had defected to the South via a third country. The reports said the girl, who was studying at a university in Beijing and was identified only by her surname Han, was now undergoing screening in Seoul by intelligence authorities. The case drew attention as a defection by a member of North Korea’s privileged elite is rare.

Most defectors from North Korea flee from poverty and oppression there, and risk severe punishment if caught and returned home.

Pyongyang has been making efforts to tackle threats to its stability, as the growing number of defectors shed light on North Korea’s human rights abuses. According to figures from Seoul, more than 25,000 North Koreans have escaped and settled in South Korea and other countries since the Korean War cease-fire in 1953, while even more are in hiding in China, North Korea’s closest ally.

To stop the flow of defectors following the death of Kim Jong Il in late 2011, North Korea has tightened border controls by increasing the number of guards and surveillance cameras.

School children in Pyongyang on July 25. North Korea has ordered diplomats and state trading company officials overseas to send their children home amid concern over the influence of foreign education, according to a professor at Kansai University.