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In South Korea, Anguish Over Deaths Of North Korean Defectors Who May Have Starved

A mother and her young son were found dead in July, apparently of starvation. The case has refocused attention on the circumstances of defectors, who often struggle to start new lives in the South.
A man sets up portraits of North Korean defector Han Sung-ok and her six-year-old son, who are believed to have died from starvation, at a makeshift shrine in downtown Seoul on Aug. 28. Source: Jung Yeon-Je

"My hometown, where I once lived, is a mountain village with blossoming flowers."

The lyrics to this folk song, which is sung in both Koreas, evoke nostalgia for a time and a place to which one can never return.

On a recent day, it is playing at a makeshift shrine in downtown Seoul. There's an altar with flowers, alongside photos of 42-year-old North Korean defector Han Seong-ok and her 6-year-old son, Kim Dong-jin.

In late July, the management staff for the apartment building where Han lived went looking for her, to see about months of unpaid utility bills. Smelling a foul odor from her apartment,

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