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[Editorial] Inhumane Repatriation of NK Defectors

Posted August. 02, 2001 09:07,   


The stunning news of the New York Times reported that the Chinese government has repatriated the North Korean defectors by groups of 20-30 people. The worries about the potential hard-line measures of the Chinese government after the asylum of the Gil-Su family were realized. The measures of the Chinese government are very regretful and inhumane.

The international law acknowledges `the political refugees who have fled their countries to escape from the oppression in terms of their political opinions` as refugees. However, the North Korean defectors in China are in a unique situation that the international law cannot be applied. The most NK defectors live a miserable wandering life. Since they had to hide themselves from the police control, they were without medical cares and sometimes got involved in the criminal activities destroying their whole lives and dreams. They are the economic refugees that the international society should consider them as carefully as the political refugees. They deserve the best support of the international society for the human rights protections and humanitarian treatments.

However, the Chinese government does not acknowledge them as refugees or even temporary evacuees, viewing them as simple intruders. According to the NYT reports, the Chinese government recently dispatched all security agents to ferret for the NK defectors and has offered rewards to those who gave notices of the NK defectors whereabouts. A church worker testified that 20-30 people had been arrested in his church alone. The Chinese government certainly knows what kind of punishments are waiting for the returned NK defectors.

The Chinese government has tried very hard to change its image as an underdeveloped country in the human rights matters. However, the inhumane image of China will never be transformed as long as the Chinese government continues to screen out the NK defectors, who are wandering on the brink of death, and sending them back to the North.

The Korean government also must step forward to resolve the problems of the NK defectors. The government has to think about whether the matters of the NK defectors have been ignored for the sake of the sunshine policy or the Korea-China relationship. It is said that the Korean consulates have not provided any measure to those who had come into the consulates in China to request for help.

The government should establish more fundamental measures in cooperation with the Chinese government. The South Koreans must not ignore the NK defectors who are in danger of the repatriation, wandering around the Chinese continent.