In the News – Ruling party proposes citizenship certificates for N. Korean defectors
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) — The ruling party floated the idea Thursday of issuing certificates of South Korean citizenship to North Korean defectors detained in China as a way to save refugees facing repatriation to their communist homeland.
The latest move comes as calls mount for China not to repatriate dozens of defectors arrested earlier this month to North Korea, where it is feared they will face harsh persecution and even execution.
Nine lawmakers of the Saenuri Party and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan held a meeting at the National Assembly earlier in the day to seek measures to pressure Beijing not to send back the refugees, whom China sees as “illegal trespassers,” against their will.
Lee Joo-young, the party’s chief policymaker, said lawmakers belonging to the foreign affairs committee asked the government to consider issuing citizenship certificates to defectors in China to put them under South Korean protection. Kim said his ministry will review the party’s proposal, according to Lee.
They will also seek to send a parliamentary delegation to China to address the issue and ask the Red Cross Society of China to join efforts to improve the human rights of North Korean defectors.
China is the only major ally of North Korea and provides diplomatic support and economic assistance to the impoverished nation. Beijing usually repatriates defectors from North Korea, seeing them as economic migrants, not refugees.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that Seoul plans to raise the issue at a United Nations meeting next week.
It is still open to question whether laws would need to be revised to adopt such a suggestion or whether China would release such detainees if they could present Seoul-issued documents.
Diplomatic missions abroad have issued South Korean passports to North Koreans who fled their homeland and arrived in other third countries. A special law enacted in 2008 obliges the South Korean government to help protect stateless defectors overseas on humanitarian grounds.
“The legal issues faced by North Korean defectors are not a matter between certain countries, but a matter of the international community and human beings,” the party’s floor leader Hwang Woo-yea said during the meeting. “Chinese authorities should transparently abide by international law and procedures.”
Stepping up efforts to save dozens of defectors believed to be detained in China, members of the foreign affairs committee will convene a general meeting on Friday to adopt a resolution to demand Beijing not send the refugees back to the North, the meeting participants said.
The resolution was submitted by Rep. Park Sun-young of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party and signed by 29 ruling and opposition lawmakers. The avid advocate for North Korean human rights has been staging a hunger strike in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul since Tuesday to pressure Beijing not to repatriate the defectors to the North.
Original article can be found here.