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North Korea defector and her son found dead: Seoul police

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Seoul, South Korea   /   Wed, August 14, 2019   /   06:06 pm
North Korea defector and her son found dead: Seoul police This picture taken on March 22, 2019 shows Lee Song-hee, a 27-year-old North Korean defector, during an interview with AFP at Wooridul School in Seoul, an educational haven for North Korean defectors too old to go to appropriate state schools. Some 60 students are enrolled at the school, one of seven special-purpose academies across the country, offering defectors free education that its principal says is (AFP/Jung Yeon-je)

The bodies of a North Korean defector and her young son have been found in their apartment, Seoul police said Tuesday, with local media reporting they appeared to have died of starvation.

The mother, only identified by the surname Han, and her six-year-old son were found on July 31, about two months after their deaths, authorities said.

"We did not see any signs of murder or suicide," an officer at Seoul's Gwanak Police Station told AFP.

"We are waiting to get the autopsy results from the National Forensic Service."

Defectors in South Korea are eligible for subsidies from the authorities, but some struggle to integrate into the South's very different society.

Han, believed to be in her 40s, withdrew the 3,858 won (US$3.16) she had in her bank account two months ago, according to the South's Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.

Her monthly rent and gas bills were more than a year overdue, it reported, and there was no food in her fridge when the bodies were found.

The newspaper said she had defected to the South via China and Thailand in 2009, later marrying a Korean-Chinese man and moving to China. After a divorce she returned to Seoul last year with her son, but had difficulty finding work.

Police declined to confirm Dong-A Ilbo's report.

South Korea is Asia's fourth-biggest economy, but family deaths due to poverty and social isolation have been frequently reported in recent years. 

Government data shows that in 2017 -- the most recent figures available -- North Korean defectors had a higher suicide rate than South Koreans as a whole, with campaign groups pointing to trauma, isolation and financial hardships.