N Korean celeb says she 'returns home after hell in South'

SEOUL - South Korea is investigating the case of a North Korean defector who became a celebrity refugee in Seoul, but recently appeared on Pyongyang television to claim she had returned home from the "hell" of the capitalist South.

Lim Ji Hyun, a female defector in her 20s, arrived in Seoul in 2014 and soon became a public figure after starring in several South Korean TV shows featuring escapees from the North.

But on Sunday, Lim abruptly appeared in a video on the North's propaganda network, describing how her dream about the wealthy South had been shattered.

In the video, posted on the North's Uriminzokkiri website, Lim said she had "returned home" last month and is now living with her family in the city of Anju.

It is unclear if she returned voluntarily, with South Korean media speculating that she might have been kidnapped at the Chinese border with the North while trying to reunite with her family.

Police sources who probed Lim's home and financial accounts in Seoul told the South's JoongAng Ilbo daily there was little sign of her trying to wrap up her life in the country and move elsewhere.

Seoul's spy agency declined to comment.

In the video, she identified herself as Chon Hae Song, which she said was her real name in the North.

Wearing a traditional hanbok and red badge bearing the images of the North's former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, she tearfully detailed her "miserable" life in the capitalist nation.

"I went to South Korea harbouring this fantasy that I would able to eat and live well, and make a lot of money there, but the South was not the place I imagined."

Lim also accused a South Korean TV station of pushing her to lie about her life in the North to make it sound more miserable than it actually was.

Lee So Yool, another North Korean defector and TV celebrity in Seoul, said Lim would have been broadcast criticising the South regardless of whether she had returned to the North voluntarily or forcibly.

"She has no choice in order to survive," Lee said.