Friday, May 29, 2009

North Korean Defectors both puzzled and moved by Roh funeral

South Korea's emotional farewell to former President Roh Moo-hyun brought much of the country together - including Koreans who were not born in the South. For the 15,000 North Koreans who have defected to South Korea, the outpouring of public emotion brought reminders of how different their new life is.

For North Korean defector Kim Young Il, the death of Roh calls to mind the 1994 funeral of North Korea's first leader, Kim Il Sung - who is worshipped as a god by the North's official political philosophy. He says the North Korean government forced him to go to Kim's funeral. Schools and factories shut down in order to attend. But, here in South Korea, he says, nobody forced him to attend Roh’s funeral.

Kim says he feels sorry Mr. Roh was not more active on the issue of human rights for North Koreans, or of North Korean defectors.

Defector Cho Jae-jin is even more blunt. He says many North Korean defectors hate Roh Moo-hyun. However, he adds that Friday's emotional funeral proceedings have given them a fresh look at Mr. Roh, as a person with negative and positive traits.

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