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Ill-informed authorities on repatriation of North`s refugees

Ill-informed authorities on repatriation of North`s refugees

Posted May. 31, 2013 05:07,   


The forceful repatriation of nine North Korean teenage defectors deported from Laos resembles a lightning-quick military operation. Had it not been for a firm determination to stop them from defecting, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would not have permitted the operation that put them on two flights to take back to the North. The South Korean embassy and authorities were caught off guard amid a lack of intelligence.

North Korea contacted Laos and China to take all the nine defectors back to Pyongyang. The defectors were detained in Laos for 18 days, but the South Korean embassy in the Laos could not have any consular interview with them. It is no exaggeration to say that the South lost a diplomatic war with the North in Laos. Even though the defectors had many opportunities to escape their detention facilities, the South Korean embassy reportedly stopped them from doing so, saying such an attempt would make matters worse. Instead of exerting all the endeavors, the embassy just waited for favorable arrangements from the Laos Government.

In the meantime, Pyongyang has recently made a great deal of efforts to maintain good ties Laos. Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, visited the Lao capital of Vientiane in August last year. South Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and its embassy in Laos should have taken measures to block the North`s diplomatic offensive toward Laos, the core country for the "southeastern route" that North Korean defectors use. Regrettably, failure to do so resulted in the incident.

At a meeting of South Korea`s overseas diplomatic mission chiefs, President Park Geun-hye told Tuesday last week that they should work harder to help Koreans and compatriots in their host countries, pointing out their practices of excessively entertaining important guests from Seoul. The Foreign Ministry also announced that its diplomatic mission chiefs would do their best to protect the safety and rights of South Korean nationals and compatriots staying overseas. North Koreans who escaped to foreign countries are also the subject of South Korean missions’ protection. If the South Korean embassy in Laos properly implemented the president’s instruction and the diplomatic mission chiefs` resolution, the repatriation would not have taken place.

There is a possibility that the son of a Japanese national abducted by North Korea was among the nine North Korean teenagers. Considering Pyongyang’s use of diplomatic resources and the military operation-like maneuver for the repatriation, it is possible that the nine people included someone who the North could not afford to miss. Though the Japanese government said it is verifying the claim, sources at certain North Korean defector groups claimed that one of the nine is the son of Japanese woman named Kyoko Matsumoto, who was abducted by the North in 1977. If the claim is true, North Korea has committed yet another crime against humanity by dragging away the son of a Japanese abductee who escaped the North through deadly perils.