Go to contents

N. Korea-U.S. “North Korean Deserter Conflict” Forecasted

N. Korea-U.S. “North Korean Deserter Conflict” Forecasted

Posted November. 18, 2004 23:15,   


As the U.S. government announced that it is preparing for a mass exile of North Korean deserters, observations are made that the U.S. is intending to intervene actively in the North Korean deserter problem upon the opportunity of enacting the North Korean Human Rights Act.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Arthur “Gene” Dewey elucidated, “We are preparing to include North Korean citizens into ‘Priority 2 (P2),’ which prescribes them as particular refugee group, if it is desirable for solving the North Korean deserter problem.”

The U.S. granted P2, qualification necessary for exile to the country, to the Jews and Christians in the former Soviet Union, Cuban refugees, and Vietnam’s boat people in the past. If P2 is applied to North Korean deserters, they will be able to take mass exile in the U.S.

Assistant Secretary Dewey stated, “North Korean deserters currently in China and elsewhere are classified as refugees. As long as the fact that they are real refugees who are highly likely to be oppressed when sent back to North Korea is confirmed, the U.S. will allow their exile.”

North Korea’s strong repulsion is expected if the U.S. applies P2 qualification, which was applied to massive refugees of several nations for the reasons of internal conflict or genocide, to North Korean deserters.

Assistant Secretary Dewey explained, “I recently visited China and discussed the North Korean deserter problem. We demanded China to treat them as refugees according to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees China adopted in 1951 and allow the UNHCR to contact them.”

He added, “The most appropriate solution for them would be to go to Korea. We are continuously discussing with the Korean government on ways to extend its accommodation capability of North Korean deserters.”

Subsequently, he stressed that a quiet and orderly arrangement of North Korean deserters is required, saying, “Those involved in the North Korean deserter issue should endeavor so that the case in which an NGO opened to the media when 400 defectors were moving to Korea from a third country does not happen again.”

However, an authority of the U.S. Embassy in Korea remarked, “The basic position and principle of the U.S. is that North Korean deserters should settle in Korea rather than the U.S. where everything including language and culture is foreign to them. There is no continuous consultation going on between the U.S. and Korea regarding the North Korean deserter issue.”

In addition, diplomatic sources in Beijing said, “The reason Assistant Secretary Dewey came to Beijing in early November was to participate in the international conference related to the Peace Keeping Operation (PKO). We understand that there was no deep discussion on the North Korean deserter problem with China.”

In particular, these sources interpreted that Assistant Dewey’s remark on P2 is more likely to be his personal opinion – he worked for a long time in the UNHCR - rather than the U.S. State Department’s official opinion.

Soon-Taek Kwon Yoo-Seong Hwang maypole@donga.com yshwang@donga.com