Celebrity defector says she swam across Yalu River to return home, not kidnapped by North Korean agents

North Korean defector Im Ji Hyun speaking on North Korean propaganda television at an unknown location in the North on Aug 19, 2017.
North Korean defector Im Ji Hyun speaking on North Korean propaganda television at an unknown location in the North on Aug 19, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL - A defector-turn-TV celebrity who returned to the North recently has reappeared on North Korea's state media, reported local media.

Im Ji Hyun, who made her second appearance in a video released by state-run Uriminzokkiri on Friday (Aug 18) night, denied allegations that she had been kidnapped by the North's Ministry of State Security were "a downright lie and fabrication".

She stressed that she hadn't been punished by the North Korean government, according to an article on the website of NK News, an independent North Korea monitoring group.

She said that she "swam across Amnok (Yalu) River" to go back to North Korea, and is now living in Munbong-dong, Anju City in South Pyongan Province.

She also denied South Korean reports that she had decided to go back to the North after separating from a boyfriend.

In response to reports that South Korean police are seeking a 10-year arrest warrant on her on charges of violating the National Security Act, she said she "didn't think about it."

"I've heard it but it's not even my country. So what does that mean (for me) even if they apply 10, 100 or 1,000 year-arrest warrant? This is because I will never look back and return (to the south)."


Known for her bubbly and cheerful image, Im spent three years in China before defecting to the South in 2014.

She had made a name for herself after appearing in variety and reality shows on South Korean TV. She even has a fan club which threw a birthday party for her in April.

The 26-year-old disappeared in April while she was in China.

Three months later, she made a puzzling confession aired on Uriminzokkiri . In the video clip, Im said she regretted escaping to the South.

"I thought I could eat well and make a lot of money in South Korea, but every day was like hell there," she said, urging other defectors in South Korea to return to the North.

At that time, some experts and defectors said it was highly likely she was the target of a state-sponsored abduction and that she was being used as a propaganda tool by the regime.

In her latest appearance on North Korean media, she again blasted the South.


"There are lots of women in their 20s and 30s among North Korean defectors. And they end up living in shady lives in general."

"I also did such a thing and lived a shady life," she added, saying that it had given her an "animosity" towards the South.

"I could not earn money because there are no jobs… I cried every day while drinking alcohol."

Since her first appearance in Uriminzokkiri in mid-July, South Korean outlets have reported, among other things, that she appeared in pornographic broadcasts while in the South.

South Korean police have said the reports are false.

"I'll speak frankly concerning the issue… It was not pornography but broadcasting for adults where [PEOPLE]were dancing with cutty clothes (skirts) and gaudy clothes," she said in her latest video appearance.

Im, who was introduced as Jeon Hye Sung on North Korean state media, said she had got involved through a friend.

"But (my friend) asked me to dance, so I did it as a prank. But they fabricated it and shifted the blame on to me."

She also said the difficulties of a getting a job and discrimination against North Korean defectors had been the hardest part of living in the South.

She added there were disparities in pay between North Koreans and South Koreans, and that she had "become desperate" to go back to her hometown.