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Defector calls for probe into state foundation info leak

Oct. 30, 2011 - 15:53 By Shin Hae-in
A North Korean defector asked South Korean prosecutors to investigate a government-affiliated organization for its alleged leaking of personal information on defectors like himself, investigators said Sunday.

The unnamed leader of a defectors’ group has accused the North Korean Refugees Foundation of handing over personal information on about 4,100 North Korea defectors to a private research institute for about a year from last August, according to Seoul Jongno Police Station.

Police are currently conducting exploratory investigations as the defector filed a petition with the Seoul Central Prosecutors Office this month.

Petition said that the foundation leaked names, addresses, mobile phone numbers and other personal data deliberately. The foundation is affiliated with South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which overseas affairs with Pyongyang.

Since July, the foundation and the ministry have been jointly conducting a survey of North Korean defectors aged 8 and older to grasp family relations and financial status of the growing number of refugees from the communist North.

The foundation said it only handed over “trivial data” such as gender and mobile phone numbers to the research group, claiming that no harm has been made.

Despite a harsh punishment for those caught fleeing North Korea, a growing number of North Koreans ― especially those in their 20s and 30s ― have escaped to the South, indicating the deepening food shortages and political and social instability in the North.

The South Korean government keeps information regarding defectors strictly confidential under a law on protective measures for those fleeing the North.

It is widely known that North Korea’s ironfisted regime often assassinates defectors by sending agents here or punishes the defectors’ family members remaining in the North.

In May, the court ordered the government to pay five defectors a total of 120 million won for leaking details on their identities. The defectors had filed suit, claiming their family members in North Korea were in danger due to the exposure of their identities.

By Shin Hae-in (