Are North Korea's Elite Defecting?
Reports from South Korea say some senior officials don't want to go home
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2011 2:12 PM CST
Former North Korean defectors stand behind a group banner.   (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
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(Newser) – In Kim Jong Il's death, an opportunity to escape? Maybe. Reports out of South Korea say that members of the country's elite appear to be defecting—or considering it. "Many ranking North Korean officials in China are refusing to return after being summoned to North Korea," said Do Hee-yun, secretary general of a group that works with North Korean refugees. Pyongyang apparently began to call senior officials who were in China back to the country before news of Dear Leader's death broke.

But Do reports that many are delaying their travels, buying time by saying they are waiting to collect payments, among other excuses. And he predicts some will attempt to defect to Seoul in the next few days, taking advantage of what he calls North Korea's reluctance to "take strong action" during the mourning period, reports the Korea Times. Do, along with a senior fellow at Seoul's Sejong Institute, say the elite may be fearful of a coming political purge brought on by the new leadership.