Posted October. 23, 2009 09:07,
The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry yesterday said it has urged China not to repatriate two families of South Korean prisoners of war who recently escaped from North Korea.
Vice Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo told the National Assembly that Seoul strongly asked Beijing not to send them back to Pyongyang and confirm their whereabouts.
The ministry held a closed-door briefing due to the sensitivity of the matter, telling lawmakers that the families were arrested before they could arrive at the South Korean consulate in Shenyang.
The family of one of the POWs escaped in mid-September and was arrested in China Sept. 29. Upon learning of this, Seoul reportedly asked Beijing to confirm the arrest. Despite South Koreas repeated objections to their repatriation to the North, Beijing is said to have shown no reaction.
A diplomatic source said the families were apparently caught while attempting to contact the South Korean consulate in Shenyang.
The National Assembly reportedly plans to send a fact-finding team to China. Choi Sung-yong, who represents a group of families of South Koreans abducted by North Korea, reported the arrest to The Dong-A Ilbo.
Choi will also attend a parliamentary hearing to give testimony on the issue and urge Seoul to help South Korean abductees and POWs.
As of the end of April, South Korean overseas missions reportedly had 461 North Korean escapees under their protection.
In addition, some 10 Asian countries including Vietnam and Laos are said to be protecting a similar number of North Korean escapees. A ministry official declined to names the countries.