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Shopping Season Kicks Off; Former Soldier Recounts Brutal Conditions; Visitation For Border Agent Killed. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 24, 2017 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[09:33:46] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Forget Black Friday. Some of the best deals hit stores last night. Take a look at this video from a Target in Jersey City. Look at the lines outside the store on Thanksgiving! And the lines didn't stop when shoppers were inside, swarming aisles for the best deals. But this morning it is quite a different scene.

Let's go out to CNN's Polo Sandoval at that same Target.

Polo, it's so quiet there. What is going on?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a night and day difference, too, Ana, because having been here most of the morning, it certainly does not feel as hectic, as busy as Black Fridays of years' past. And there's a couple of reasons for that.

There are many people who are at home this morning. They're getting their shopping online because many retailers, like target, they're offering many of the same deals on their website. So why stand in line when you can simply do it online? But that's just one reason.

There's also, including Target, they're opening up their doors to their customers even sooner. As you just saw in the video from yesterday, it was extremely busy here yesterday, which means many people got their shopping done yesterday, which is really some advice that we're hearing from experts to simply try to knock it out on Thanksgiving. But that doesn't mean that some retailers can try to lure some of their shoppers out today.

For example, Friday only at Target, if you spend about $75 bucks -- you spend $50 or more, then you get about a 20 percent discount that you can use in the coming days. So clearly this retailer is trying to keep that tradition alive of Black Friday shopping.

[09:35:13] The reality though is that there are many people who may be going online trying to take advantage of some of those sales and getting that shopping done. There was some recent studies here from the -- from several experts that are showing, Ana, that about -- close to 60 percent of shoppers will be going online versus going into their stores for their -- for their shopping. So it just goes to show you that there are still many people who are choosing to stay home, but still spending nonetheless.

CABRERA: Yes, it's a lot more convenient and a lot more warm inside your house than waiting in line.

SANDOVAL: Yes.

CABRERA: Polo Sandoval, thank you for that.

Joining us now with more on what this means for you, as the consumer, and for businesses, those big box stores, those department stores, Hitha Herzog, a consumer spending analyst with H Squared Research.

So, Hitha, is Black Friday what it used to be?

HITHA HERZOG, CONSUMER SPENDING ANALYST, H SQUARED RESEARCH: Not really. And mostly because of what Polo was saying. A lot of people now are basically wanting to just stay at home, watch their Netflix, hang out with family, and just go and use their devices in order to shop. It's so easy now.

CABRERA: Right.

HERZOG: And PayPal came out with a study that said that 80 percent of people are now using their mobile devices just to log on and go shopping. Twenty-four percent of those people were shopping from the dinner table last night and 22 percent of those people were shopping from bed last night.

CABRERA: So the good news is, they're spending money.

HERZOG: Yes.

CABRERA: But, I mean, is that bad news for these stores, or can they make up the difference in sales online?

HERZOG: Well, that's a good question. So a lot of these retailers spent a ton of infrastructure money in trying to get their online stores up and running. So Amazon is really what they're competing against. It's the retail juggernaut. So they can't go up against Amazon. No one really can. So all they are trying to do is now play catchup. So they've spent, over the last couple years, Target, Walmart, Kohl's, up to $1 billion just making sure that people -- going online. It's a seamless experience. It's really easy. So you're seeing the effects of that now.

I was in a Walmart last night, as I told you, and the same situation. It was completely calm. No lines. Everyone was, you know, just walking calmly and --

CABRERA: And we're used to seeing those like elbows out --

HERZOG: Right.

CABRERA: People getting in fights.

HERZOG: No one was getting punched in the face. No, last night I did not witness any of that. But, you know -- and I asked one of the workers, the sales people there, and he said it was mostly because of online shopping. I mean the walmart.com app is -- and the app that they use is just super functional. And the same thing with Target and same thing with Kohl's. And it's -- even if you look at your e-mails, too. I've been getting offers right and left. So it kind of makes it easy just to not want to even leave your home.

CABRERA: You know, it's interesting because the National Retail Federation has said that shoppers are expected to spend more than ever before this holiday season. Up about 3 percent from last year. I mean that sounds like good news for all these retailers. But when you look at the evolution of our economy, and technology, the combination, I mean what does it mean or signal to you in terms of the future?

HERZOG: Well, it -- I was -- what I saw last night, people were really gravitating towards these very major discounts. So when you saw 40 to 50 percent off, you would see a swarm of people around it. When you would see discounts of 10 to 20 percent, people weren't really into it. So -- which makes sense. People want that discount.

But it also made me think that the consumer is still price-sensitive. So when they feel that they are getting a good discount, they'll go for that. I mean it's, in general. It's our society.

CABRERA: Yes.

HERZOG: We want to feel like we're getting a great deal. But while the economy may feel like it's robust and people can just spend freely with that discretionary income, I think people are still kind of cutting back and still making sure that they are getting those deals.

CABRERA: Right. Well, Hitha Herzog, thank you so much.

HERZOG: Thanks for having me.

CABRERA: Nice to see you.

HERZOG: You too.

CABRERA: After a defector's dramatic escape, this is what is now happening in North Korea. They're taking action to make sure the nearly impossible escape isn't going to happen again. They don't want that to happen with anyone else. We'll have much more on this, next.

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[09:43:24] CABRERA: Sadly, the U.S. Navy has had to call off the search for three missing sailors. This following that plane crash off the coast of Okinawa on Wednesday. The names of those missing have not been released. The statement from the Navy reads, our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmates and their families. Eight others were rescued and are in good condition.

A swift reaction from North Korea after a soldier's dramatic defection. A U.S. government official sharing this photo from the border between the regime and South Korea, showing North Korean troops digging a trench and planting trees near that spot where the soldier escaped. It comes as that soldier is being praised for his daring desertion by a man who knows what he may have gone through. A former defector sat down with CNN's Anna Coren to explain the brutal conditions inside North Korea and why a young soldier would risk his life to get away.

And Anna is joining us live from Seoul with more on her interview.

Sounds fascinating, Anna.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, we certainly did get a fascinating insight into what this young soldier must be going through. As you say, we spoke to a defector who also worked as a North Korean soldier on the DMZ, and he believes that while conditions are brutal in North Korea, it wasn't hunger or malnutrition that motivated this latest defector to make that daring escape into South Korea, but rather a desperate want and desire for freedom.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see him moving at a good rate of speed.

COREN (voice-over): Speeding down a deserted road on the DMZ, a North Korean soldier is attempting something the U.N. command says no one has ever done before.

[09:45:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will see some KPA soldiers come out of this building here as the vehicle quickly moves past them.

COREN: Using an army Jeep, he drives to within meters of the South Korean border. And under a rain of bullets from his own comrades, he runs across the demarcation line, defecting.

There have been many defectors, but this is the first one I want to praise for bravery. He was heroic. I never thought to do this, because it's a suicide mission.

Thirty-two-year-old Kang Ri-hyuk would know. He spent ten years as an officer in the North Korean People's Army based on the DMZ. And while he thought about defecting, he never imagined pulling off such a daring escape.

Instead, he crossed the border into China, made his way to Thailand, and then defected to South Korea four years ago. And that's where he met his wife, also a defector, who doesn't want her identity revealed, fearing for the safety of her family back in North Korea.

Conditions were harsh. Everyone was hungry, even the soldiers, he says. The U.N. is sending rice and fertilizer and it all goes to the ranking officials. There are many soldiers who also die from disease because they're not given medical treatment.

The latest defector, the third this year, suffered serious injuries to his arms and abdomen from at least four bullet wounds. By the time he was medivaced to hospital, he'd lost more than 50 percent of his blood and was almost dead. And while surgeons were operating, they discovered dozens of parasitic worms, some up to 27 centimeters long, which doctors say were the result of poor hygiene and malnutrition. COREN (on camera): Back in the 1990s, famine and starvation plagued

North Korea, but the U.N. says malnutrition is still a major problem. More than 40 percent of the population is undernourished, and one in four children face chronic malnutrition. And while North Korean soldiers are generally treated better than civilians, life is still a constant struggle.

COREN (voice-over): This exclusive footage, obtained by a South Korean Christian mission, shows North Korean soldiers physically plowing the soil instead of using livestock. And here, they're foraging through a bird's nest, hunting for chicks, presumably to eat.

Pastor Kim Sung-eun, who heads the mission, has rescued hundreds of North Koreans. He says while this footage is bleak, it's not hunger that motivates defectors, but rather the desire for freedom.

North Koreans are thirsty for the outside world and frustrated by the reality they face, he explains. Those who defect, including soldiers, are hungry for information and have a strong desire to get out.

Kang says he too wanted a better life, especially for his new family. And now working as a journalist, he occasionally broadcasts loud speaker messages to the North Korean soldiers, and has this message for his fellow defector.

Congratulations on your defection. Happy South Korea. I wonder if you heard my broadcast and it helped with your decision. I hope we can meet and have a sojourn (ph).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Now, Ana, we heard from the hospital today, and that 24-year- old defector, he has been moved out of ICU and placed in a general ward. So he seems to be recovering well.

However, doctors believe that it will be some time, perhaps up to a month, before he is in a state -- a mental state where he can talk about that defection, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Anna Coren for us in Seoul, South Korea. Thank you.

His death is still a mystery, but as friends and family gather to remember the border agent killed along the U.S./Mexico border, his mother shares her heartbreak with CNN.

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[09:53:16] CABRERA: This morning, still few answers in the death of a U.S. border agent. Agent Rogelio Martinez died, his partner was injured, while they were responding to an unspecified event at the Texas/Mexico border last Sunday. Today, loved ones are honoring Martinez.

CNN's Scott McLean is in El Paso, Texas, this morning.

Scott, how are family and friends there coping, especially with so many questions still out there about how Martinez died?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this will undoubtedly be a tough day for the Martinez family, Ana. The visitation for Rogelio Martinez, that border patrol agent, will be held today. The funeral will be held tomorrow at a nearby catholic church.

And I had a chance to speak with Rogelio's mother, Elvira, earlier this week. She said her son was a good man who was proud of the work that he was doing. She also told me that he would call her every single day.

This family is a close family. And what makes things especially difficult, Ana, is that they don't have very many answers as to how or why Rogelio was actually killed. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, says this was a murder. The Border Patrol Union says it was an ambush. But the FBI, who is actually investigating this, is only calling it a possible assault.

What we do know is that Agent Martinez was patrolling along the interstate, searching a culvert area about 30 miles from the Mexican border as part of his regular duties. What happened after that is still very unclear. But he, along with another agent who arrived after, ended up being rushed to the hospital with head injuries and broken bones.

The second agent, he was released from the hospital on Wednesday, but we don't know his name, his condition, or whether he's spoken to investigators. We only know that he had eight years of experience. Martinez himself had four.

[09:55:09] We also went to the town of Van Horn. This is the area where those agents were first taken for treatment about 12 miles from where this happened. Everyone there seems to have a theory or have heard a rumor about what actually happened, but nobody knows for sure. One person told me that authorities are making things unnecessarily mysterious. And five days after this happened, Ana, it is still very much a mystery.

CABRERA: Was it an attack? Was it a fall? We know you'll continue to dig into that investigation.

Scott McLean, in El Paso, Texas, thank you.

Now, the lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn are no longer talking with the president's lawyers. Does this signal cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller? We are following all the new details.

Stay with us in the NEWSROOM.

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[10:00:11] CABRERA: Top of the hour on a Friday. Thanks for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera.