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Interview

North Korean defector takes contrarian stance against bashing Kim

Hong Kang-cheol's message resonates as Seoul scraps permits of anti-North groups

Hong Kang-cheol, who arrived in South Korea in 2013, warns that Kim Jong Un's "god" status in North Korea means citizens see criticism of the leader as an attack on their beliefs. (Photo by Steven Borowiec)

SEOUL -- Hong Kang-cheol's first moment of shock came shortly after arriving in South Korea, while staying in a government-run facility for North Korean defectors.

Before a meal, staff told him that he and the other defectors were not permitted to serve themselves food, but could only eat portions prepared for them. When he asked why, the staff told him it was because if left to choose, the North Koreans would take huge portions for themselves and not leave enough for the others.

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