North Korean refugees have launched a political party, South-North Unification Party in South Korea on February 18 with an aim to elevate the voices of at least 33,500 defectors which are living in the South and oppose peacemaking with Pyongyang. According to international reports, the decision to set up a formal party is a sign that defectors are vouching for a more direct political role ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled in April.
More than a thousand North Koreans had defected to South Korea in 2019 according to South Unification Ministry. Reports state that since South Korea is still at war with North Korea because of the 1950-53 Korean War ended without a peace accord, unification is still a nationwide goal in South. However, the conciliation between the two countries is now seen as a distant possibility.
According to international reports, Kim Joo-il who is appointed as the secretary-general of the newly formed South-North Unification Party said during the launch that the defectors are “always considered minorities and aliens”. He further added that the “North Korean defectors are now the future of unification”. Furthermore, many people have now grown critical of South Korean President Moon-Jae-in's administration which has been accused of ignoring the defectors along with human rights in order to mend its relations with North Korea.
Kim Yong-Tae, a lawmaker reportedly said during his congratulatory party speech that South Korean leader Kim Jong Un is the “most afraid of is when the dignity of the North Korean defectors is raised”. Furthermore, one of the defector participants said that the new party's criticism of the North Korean leader may raise concerns about publicly pledging support amid fear of endangering their family back in North.
However, the most senior defector, Thae Yong-ho, who was the deputy ambassador at the North Korean embassy in London when he had defected from North along with his wife, two sons in August 2016. He has also become the most vocal critic of the regime. The new party's office reportedly said that Thae “is someone who risked his life for freedom”. He will now run for national assembly elections on April 15 for Liberty Korea, which is also the country's main opposition party.