Here's How North Korea Will Keep Olympians From Defecting

Surveillance, intimidation, and loyalty
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2018 12:19 PM CST
Here's How North Korea Will Keep Olympians From Defecting
North Korea supporters wave the Korean unification flag during the preliminary round of the women's hockey game between Switzerland and the combined Koreas at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Over the past 60 years or so, more than 31,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea. Now, North Korea wants to make sure its delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang doesn't add to that number. CNN has an in-depth report on how North Korea is making sure the nearly 500 members of its Olympic delegation will return home after the competitions are over. The North Korean delegation includes athletes, cheerleaders, reporters, performers, and more. The "more" would include undercover intelligence officers under the guise of "support staff" and other titles, a former North Korean police officer says. He says North Korean athletes will be under surveillance every hour of every day they're in South Korea, not allowed to stay in their rooms or even go to the bathroom alone.

The ex-North Korean officer says members of the delegation will also be expected to inform on each other. "Not only the leaders but also the rest of the performers will be punished for not reporting suspicious signs of a defector," he says. Members of the delegation would think twice even in the unlikely event an opportunity for defection arises. "They have family back home; they know if they defect, their family will be terrified and punished," says Han Seo-hee, a North Korean cheerleader who defected to South Korea in 2006. She says as much as possible members of the delegation would be loyal to the North Korean regime and seen as unlikely to defect. As a final precaution, the delegation will undergo individual reviews and investigations upon their return. Read the full story here. (Read more Olympics stories.)

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