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 said.
Defectors from North Korea are given state assistance – including adult education classes (pictured) – to help them settle in the South, but many still struggle to integrate
‘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 (£2.63, 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.
She 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.
South Korea is Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, but family deaths due to poverty and social isolation have been frequently reported in recent years. People from the North defect to escape the regime of Kim Jong-un (pictured)
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 North Korean defectors had a higher suicide rate than South Koreans as a whole, with campaign groups pointing to trauma, isolation and financial hardships.