Could a North Korean athlete defect to South Korea during the Olympics?

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Could a North Korean athlete defect to South Korea during the Olympics? It's not likely, one expert says. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

By one estimate from South Korea's Ministry of Unification, more than 30,000 people defect from North Korea each year, yet the country has sent 22 high-profile athletes and hundreds of others into South Korea as part of its Olympics delegation.

If one of the athletes wanted to defect, the time is right -- but that's not likely to happen, experts say.

"One of the main reasons North Korean athletes don't defect is because of their families back in North Korea," Benjamin Young, a doctoral candidate at George Washington University who has researched sports in North Korea, told ABC News' Mae Joo. "The families are well connected and intensely loyal to the Kim family regime."

Many of the athletes live comfortably in the capital, according to Young, and receive material rewards from the state based on their performance in the games.

During the games, they're also accompanied by government minders tasked with security, supervision and translation duties who report suspicious activities back to Pyongyang, Young said.
Related Topics:
sportsnorth koreasouth koreaOlympicsu.s. & worldpolitics



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