Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ask a Korean! News: 31 North Korean Defectors Were Repatriated

Terrible news. Mr. Joo Seong-Ha, through Dong-A Ilbo, reports that China, in a clear violation of international law, sent back all 31 North Korean defectors to North Korea. According to sources, North Korea had been arresting and interrogating the defectors' families even before this repatriation -- presumably because China relayed to North Korea the identity of these defectors. Even the families of those who helped these defectors escape out of North Korea are being arrested and interrogated.

The families of those 31 who are in South Korea are wrecked with grief and guilt. One 45-year-old woman met her 70-year-old mother in China for exactly two days before leading her mother to the group in the hopes that her mother would be able to come to South Korea. One high school-aged boy, whose mother died while escaping from North Korea, had a younger sister in that group of 31 that was sent back to North Korea.

This repatriation by China is an unusually aggressive move. So far, when North Korea defectors were arrested in China, the Chinese police would hold the defectors for as long as 6 months before sending them back to North Korea so as to wait for the public reaction to quiet down. This time, however, China repatriated these defectors at the height of the international furor at the issue. (Korean president Lee Myeong-Bak formally requested China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to repatriate these defectors only a week ago.) Significantly, according to sources within the Chinese police, these defectors were not even listed on the usual database, kept by the Chinese police, of North Korean defectors who were sent back to North Korea. This indicates that North Korean Security Bureau [보위부] came to China to directly take these defectors back.

The fight is not over. There are still more lives to be saved -- approximately 300 North Korean defectors who are being held in a Chinese prison as of now. Among them is a mother with a baby who is less than a month old. Also, there may still be the slightest chance of still saving the lives of the 31 people. Several NGOs in South Korea have the names and pictures of the 31 who were sent back, such that the way they were treated in North Korean prison can be tracked and exposed to the world. Although it is not likely, there is a tiny, tiny chance that continued international pressure may yet save their lives.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

6 comments:

  1. Kony 2012 spread like a wild fire. Why can't this when it's been going on for years as well?? *shaking head*

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  2. This is just awful. Thank you for keeping us up-to-date on the developments.

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  3. Agreed with the Kony 2012 comment. But does the US public's opinion really affect any relations with North Korea or even China? I personally don't think so but I don't follow everything very closely. It makes me sick that they were repatriated back to North Korea. In a previous post of yours it said that to bribe a Chinese official would be 16,000 US. That totals for all 31 $496,000...meaning that if every person who signed the save my friend petition donated $3 it would have been more than covered for all of them, though I know it would have been much more complicated than that.

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  4. Though China have changed their stance on Syria thanks to international pressure.

    Good idea on the bribing Sara, that could be possible actually. Maybe a fund could be created. Though could be hard keeping that under the radar..

    What do you think Mr.Korean?

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    Replies
    1. Please refer to the post from Monday. Bribing did not work. That's why this is an international issue right now.

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  5. Bribing the Chinese is definitely a bad idea. The Chinese will just apply their usual ingenuity to the new source of revenue - make fake North Korean refugees.

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