Defector returns to North Korea, expresses regret for fleeing in video: Report

SEOUL (AFP) - A North Korean woman who defected 16 years ago has returned to the country, state media has reported, shedding tears in a video and ripping up pages from her memoir in an apparent act of recantation.

The North's state-run website Uriminzokkiri posted a video last Saturday (Jan 16) of Ms Son Ok Sun, 50, expressing regret for fleeing to China in 2000.

She also described her disillusionment with South Korea, where she moved to in 2007 and wrote a book about her defection and subsequent conversion to Christianity.

The North's leader Kim Jong Un has been luring back defectors with the promise of a pardon, offering them rewards and jobs should they return home.

Pyongyang has also been putting returned defectors on state media as part of its efforts to encourage more people to return.

"I want to make a sacrifice of myself for reunification (of the two Koreas)," she says before ripping up pages of Longing for Light, written under her pseudonym, Esther Joo.

"At the behest of enemies, the book was written to paint a bad picture of the fatherland," a voice-over on Uriminzokkiri says, as Ms Son destroys her memoir.

Much has changed for the better in the North since she left, Ms Son can be heard saying in the 20-minute video, which also shows her touring Pyongyang, marvelling at the capital's tall buildings, enjoying herself at an aquarium and crying at a kindergarten.

She says in the short film that South Korea is mired in corruption, labour disputes and high suicide rates.

Ms Son is one of 15 North Koreans who have reportedly returned to the North since 2011, according to South Korean media.

The precise date of her return is unknown.

The number of people defecting from the North to the South fell from more than 2,700 in 2011 to 1,277 in 2015, coinciding with Mr Kim increasing border controls, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry.