South Korea cuts down screening period for North Korean defectors

SEOUL, Feb. 13 (UPI) — The South Korean government will reduce the screening period for North Korean defectors from 180 days to a maximum of 90 days after entry to the South.

The government approved the measure on Tuesday in a cabinet meeting, after critics complained the initial period of interrogation could infringe human rights, Seoul Shinmun reported.

“Defectors long to get to the South as soon as they can. Being investigated for so long makes you feel restless, like you’re under detainment,” a defector identified as Park told JTBC.

After defectors arrive in South Korea, they spend up to six months in a protection facility run by the National Intelligence Service.

There, they undergo background checks and those suspected of crime or espionage are subject to more intensive screening.

Under the revised policy, the government can only extend the questioning period once for 30 days under inevitable circumstances, such as a massive influx of defectors to the South, after obtaining approval from a council meeting.

The policy is expected to go into effect later this month.

Meanwhile, JTBC says some defectors are also calling for the scrapping of various programs and lectures, such as comedy sessions, that they’re required to sit through after the investigations as they are irrelevant to the probe.