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Task Force for the North Korean Defector Issue

Posted October. 27, 2004 22:56,   


It was reported on October 27 that the government had embarked on reviewing countermeasures, including establishing a task force to address comprehensively the issue of North Korean defectors, in response to the recent successive cases of North Korean asylum-seekers entering foreign compounds or schools in China and Beijing’s hard-line stance over the issue.

Some opinions within the government, which argue that the “demand” of North Korean refugees is beyond the grasp of existing government organizations and measures, are likely to be discussed publicly.

A government official said on that day, “There’s a growing consensus within the government on the urgent need for a comprehensive ‘control tower’ for North Korean defector issues.” In this regard, recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has reportedly designed a document concerning the impact of North Korean Human Rights Act enforcement on the North Korean refugee problem.

He said that the government, in time, will review the changes in the North’s defector issues such as the enforcement of the North Korean Human Rights Act, North Koreans defecting to the South in larger scale, and strict crackdown on the North’s defection cases by the Chinese authorities and will start consulting on ways to create a more efficient task force for this matter.

Meanwhile, North Korean defector advocacy groups such as the Democracy Network against North Korean Gulag and NGOs held a press conference in front of the back gate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade building and strongly criticized Beijing’s crackdown on pro-North Korean defector and defection-related NGOs, calling for the South Korean government’s aggressive countermeasures to this issue.

According to the Unification Ministry, the number of North Korean asylum-seekers who entered the South until September this year stands at 1,511, a 72 percent increase over the same period of last year when 876 defected to South Korea.

Hyong-gwon Pu bookum90@donga.com taewon_ha@donga.com