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Unhumanitarian petitions for deporting N. Korean defector

Unhumanitarian petitions for deporting N. Korean defector

Posted May. 18, 2018 07:56,   

Updated May. 18, 2018 07:56


Before U.S. President Donald Trump was sworn in, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said in January last year that the president of Russia had an opportunity to give “perfect inauguration gift” to Trump. The gift Morell mentioned was Russia's handing spy whistleblower Edward Snowden over to the United States. Snowden was in asylum in Russia after crying foul against the U.S. National Security Agency's mass surveillance program. Many eyebrows were raised by Morell's idea of handing over a whistleblower who could face a prison term of up to 20 years as a presidential inauguration gift. However, U.S. television broadcaster NBC reported that the Russian intelligence authorities were considering handing Snowden over to the United States as a gift.

Then, Snowden wrote on his Twitter account, "No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they're next." He was not repatriated, after all. Forcefully repatriating refugees to their original countries is an unhumanitarian act whose instances are hard to find in modern history except for China's repatriation of North Korean escapees.

Multiple petitions have been filed on the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae's website, calling for the deportation of Thae Yong Ho, former North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom who defected to South Korea in 2016. The petitions have been filed right after North Korea denounced him while notifying Seoul of its postponement of inter-Korean high-level talks early Wednesday. Some of the petitions contain false or defamatory remarks, calling him a "traitor who deserted his country after committing a crime while enjoying wealth and honor in North Korea." As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 48 petitions raised regarding Thae.

Of course, only a small number of people participated in the petitions against Thae, showing that few people support the idea of deporting those who risked their lives to have freedom in South Korea. However, the fact that such petitions are filed could make North Korean defectors anxious. We should also be on alert for the possibility that those with impure intentions could take advantage of Cheong Wa Dae's petition system, which allows anyone to file petitions with their user IDs on popular websites or social networking services such as Naver, Twitter and Facebook.

Kee-Hong Lee sechepa@donga.com