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Syrian refugee’s tragedy and North Korean youth defectors

Syrian refugee’s tragedy and North Korean youth defectors

Posted September. 05, 2015 07:14,   


In his red shirt, Aylan Kurdi was lying face down on the beach. The three-year-old boy was a Syrian refugee who was drowned and dead on the way to the Greek island Kos through Turkey with his parents and a five-year-old brother. Kos and adjacent islands are in the Greek territory, even though they are off the Turkish coast. That’s why Kurdi’s family embarked the deadly journey to cross the Mediterranean Sea heading Greece, an EU member country.

In accordance with the Dublin Convention established in 1990, refugees who came to a European nation will be accommodated by the first nation where they arrived. But therein lies a problem. Each nation’s quota to host refugees has been already full and majority of the refugees want to go to Germany, the U.K., or Sweden which has a well-established welfare system. Refugees who arrived in the European continent from the Middle East or Africa go on to try the "second escape" for better destinations. Hungary, which has run a designated train to carry refugees to other nations, started putting barbed wires around the border line in the face of strong protests by other nations in the Western Europe.

Seventy-two refugees including four children were found dead in a freezer truck parked on the highway side in Austria on Aug. 27. They were crossing the border illegally, in an attempt to avoid being registered as refugee in Hungary. But they suffocated to death in the sealed container of the truck, which was abandoned by the smuggler who drove the lorry. After seeing tragic deaths of refugees in failed attempts to flee, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel called for other Western Europe, especially the U.K., to join hands to open the door for Syrian refugees. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had clearly opposed to the proposal, announced to accommodate more refugees when the image of Kurdi’s tragic death has rapidly spread through the social media.

Many South Koreans would have a deja vu from tragic images of African refugees and Kurdi. Because we have our own share of refugees – North Korean defectors. Around 30,000 North Koreans defected to China to avoid oppression and hunger. Out of this, some 10,000 are young defectors who are not properly treated as refugees. These "Kotjebis," the North Korean term to call homeless children, are going around barefooted in search of food shivering in the cold at minus 20 degrees. We’ve seen such heart-breaking images from the media. The world is crying over images of Kurdi lying face down on the beach. But Kotjebis who die in the border between North Korea and China are not getting attentions that they deserve.