Life is better back home, say some refugees writes Jason Strother for Asia Sentinel.

The number of North Korean refugees reaching South Korea is on the decline. The South Korean government says it’s due to tougher border security, enforced by their ruler, Kim Jong-un. But advocates say there’s also been a rise in the number of North Korean defectors who want to go back.

Son Jeong-hun is one of those who escaped from North Korea more than 10 years ago. Since then, he has helped other North Koreans to resettle in the south. The 49-year-old says that many were surprised when he announced that he wanted to return home.

The North Korean flag. Pic: AP.

“No one had ever asked to re-defect to North Korea before,” he says, “The government said there’s no way for me to return and it was illegal. I was told, that at the very least, I needed an invitation from North Korea if I want to visit.”

Jeong-hun says he’s ill and wants to see his family in Pyongyang again before he dies. He is also broke, struggling to pay back a loan and later losing his apartment. He says he now regrets coming to South Korea.

“I’m not making this up, 80 out of 100 defectors say they’d go back to North Korea to be with their families if it weren’t for the punishment they’d receive there,” he says, “They’d go even if it meant they’d only be able to eat corn porridge.”

After publicly declaring his request to re-defect, Jeong-hun says he has been put on an overseas travel ban. But other refugees have made it all the way back home. Over the past year, a handful of defectors have shown up on North Korean television. They say the South Korean government lured them with promises of money but in the end, they say, leaving the motherland turned out badly.

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