In the News – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors


In the News – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors

The Chinese government has halted the repatriation of North Korean defectors, apparently in response to South Korean requests and because it is angry that the North went ahead with its rocket launch.

The Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday cited an official from China’s Liaoning Province as saying China, which had been repatriating up to 30 North Korean defectors a day since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December, recently stopped doing so.

“North Korea failed to inform China of specific plans to launch its missile last Friday,” another Chinese official told the Japanese daily, which added that Beijing’s anger at being kept in the dark played a role in the decision to stop the repatriations. “Although it is unclear when Beijing stopped repatriation, it is certain no more defectors were sent back to North Korea,” the paper said. Continue reading

In the News – China eases repatriating policy!


In the News – China eases repatriating policy

South Korean government ministries say they have received no confirmation China has stopped, at least temporarily, repatriating North Koreans.

A Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri, says an unnamed Chinese official in Liaoning province told its reporter such forced returns of North Koreans to their home country had stopped.

The newspaper says the suspension reflects China’s displeasure with North Korea for the controversial rocket launch.

Ahead of the launch, China permitted five North Korean defectors to leave for South Korea. The North Koreans had long been holed up in South Korea’s Embassy in Beijing to avoid arrest.

South Korea and international rights groups have called on China to alter its policy, saying those sent back to North Korea face retribution, possibly including death sentences.

The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations. They technically remain at war as they never signed a peace treaty following a devastating three-year conflict in the early 1950s.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Boney M urges Beijing to be lenient on N. Korean defectors


In the News – Boney M urges Beijing to be lenient on N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) — A lead vocalist of the well-known disco group Boney M said on Tuesday that North Korean defectors detained in China should be given a chance at freedom, calling for Beijing to show leniency.

“There should be some kind of leniency, giving these people (defectors) a chance to live a life they have chosen,” Liz Mitchell said at a press conference in Seoul before playing a concert on Saturday.

Boney M’s three other members also showed support for North Korean defectors, according to Howard Kim, the manager of the concert organizer. Continue reading

Dinner at Pyongyang Restaurant at Seven?

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – an area renowned for isolation, shrouding itself in mystery – runs a chain of restaurants throughout Asia. Named after North Korea’s capital city, the restaurants, originally conceived to entice travelling South Korean businessmen hungry for Korean classics like kimchi or northern specialties like Pyongyang cold noodles or dangogi, have emerged in areas near the China-North Korean border, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Jakarta, and, most recently, Amsterdam. In the words of Australian journalist Sebastian Strangio, who enjoyed a meal at the Pyongyang restaurant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the restaurant is brimming with curious customers, an overwhelming majority of which is South Korean. At Pyongyang Restaurant, customers can get an intriguing view of the lifestyles of North Koreans allowed to work outside of the borders of the DPRK. Continue reading

In the News – Disco group Boney M to show support for N. Korean defectors


In the News – Disco group Boney M to show support for N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) — The well-known disco group Boney M plans to show support for North Korean defectors who face repatriation in China during their visit to Seoul this week for a concert, the event organizer said Monday.

The four-member vocal group, which achieved massive popularity during the disco era of the late 1970s, is scheduled to play a concert in Seoul Saturday and will donate part of ticket sales to a local defectors group, according to Howard Kim, manager of concert promoter Btechnic.

“Boney M thought the issue of forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors is in line with the philosophy of their songs,” Kim said, adding the group will hold a press conference in Seoul Tuesday to urge Beijing not to repatriate defectors detained in China.

Some 100 North Korean defectors are reportedly in detention in China and face deportation back to their communist homeland, where it is feared they will receive harsh punishment and even execution, according to a South Korean lawmaker.

At the height of their popularity, the group released “By the Rivers of the Babylon” in 1978, which became the second highest selling single in British chart history. The song, which was also Boney M’s only U.S. Top 40 hit, is about freedom for the oppressed.

“Boney M is scheduled to visit the Chinese Embassy (in Seoul) Wednesday to show support for defectors who are on a hunger strike and participate in a candelight rally (against forceful repatriation),” Kim said.

Defectors and activists have been staging hunger strikes to protest against Beijing’s policy of repatriation in front of China’s mission in Seoul. Most recently, high-profile South Korean lawmakers have joined the rallies.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Students Begin 31-Hour Fast for North Korean Defectors


In the News – Students Begin 31-Hour Fast for North Korean Defectors

Beginning on Tuesday, members of Harvard Human Rights in North Korea (HRiNK) will fast for 31 hours to raise awareness about the 31 North Korean defectors recently repatriated by the Chinese government. The defectors face imprisonment, forced labor, and possible execution in their native country.

For HRiNK co-president Rainer A. Crosett ’14, the fast is an opportunity to correct Harvard students’ misconceptions about North Korea.

“They have the image of the Kim family, you know, and nuclear weapons,” he said. “People don’t actually know that there are, for example, 200,000 people living in concentration camps.”

Crosett added that the organized fast highlights the daily reality of famine and food shortages for many North Koreans.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea because the experience of so many of the North Korean people and refugees is one of intense hunger,” he said.

HRiNK co-president Stephanie Choi ’13 said that the latest defections do not represent isolated incidents. She added that many North Koreans have previously risked imprisonment, torture, and death to reunite with loved ones in South Korea and escape oppression. Continue reading

In the News – China Lets N.Korean Teenager Go to Seoul


In the News – China Lets N.Korean Teenager Go to Seoul

One of the North Korean defectors who arrived in South Korea from China early this month was a teenager who had been hiding at the South Korean Consulate in Shenyang. According to a diplomatic source in Seoul on Thursday, China sent him to South Korea along with the three family members of a South Korean prisoner of war who had been living in the Consulate in Beijing.

“It seems China let go the teenager who was hiding in the consulate because it’s tired of the international focus on the plight of young North Korean defectors,” the source added.

China drew international condemnation when it emerged that the 14- and 18-year-old grandchildren of the South Korean POW had been living in the Beijing consulate for as long as 34 months.

China is apparently planning to let another seven North Koreans hiding in South Korean diplomatic missions in Beijing and Shenyang travel to Seoul in the near future.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korean defector-spy gets 4-yr jail term for assassination attempt


In the News – N. Korean defector-spy gets 4-yr jail term for assassination attempt

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) — A North Korean defector-turned-spy was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to kill a fellow defector in South Korea at the order of the communist regime, court officials said Thursday.

The secret agent, surnamed Ahn, was charged with plotting to kill Park Sang-hak, a defector leading anti-Pyongyang propaganda activities in the South, with a poisoned needle in September.

He was also ordered to pay 11.75 million won (US$10,399) in fines, the equivalent of his payment from the North.

“Severe punishment is needed for crimes that can threaten the existence and safety of the Republic of Korea (South Korea),” the Seoul Central District Court said in a ruling. “However, (the court) took into consideration the circumstances that led Ahn to commit the crime, such as the fact that he was unexpectedly given the poisoned needle while gathering North Korea intelligence for the National Intelligence Service (NIS),” the South’s spy agency.

Ahn defected to the South in 1995 and served as a director of a company handling inter-Korean economic projects. In 2010, he came into contact with a North Korean spy during business trips to Mongolia, and was later ordered to carry out the assassination, court officials said.

Ahn said he followed the instructions out of resentment for the NIS, as he informed the agency of the assassination plot and offered to gather top intelligence on the communist regime, but was rebuffed and even warned of possible legal consequences, according to the officials.

North Korea has said it opposes all forms of terrorism, though it has a track record of terrorist attacks against South Korea. The Koreas are technically at war with each other after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Human Rights Groups Call on UN Over N.Korea Gulag


In the News – Human Rights Groups Call on UN Over N.Korea Gulag

Over 10,000 people die in North Korean prison camps every year, 20 to 25 percent of them from forced labor, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea said Tuesday.

The group consists of some 40 leading human rights organizations and activists including the world’s big three — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International League for Human Rights — and was established in September last year.


In a press conference Tuesday it called on the UN to carry out a special investigation of North Korean gulags and said it submitted a petition to the UN Human Rights Council.

Based on testimonies of North Korean defectors, it says there are six political prisons in the Stalinist country housing 150,000 to 200,000 people who are subject to inhumane treatment such as forced labor, torture and public execution. It said the work of just one UN special rapporteur on North Korea is not enough to save the vast number of political prisoners there and urged the UN to establish a commission to investigate crimes against humanity in the isolated country.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – 10 N.Korean Defectors’ Odyssey Ends


In the News – 10 N.Korean Defectors’ Odyssey Ends

Ten North Korean defectors who had been hiding in South Korean diplomatic missions in China arrived discreetly in South Korea on Sunday. They consisted of five who had been hiding in the Consulate in Beijing for three years, three of them family members of a South Korean prisoner of war, as well as defectors who were living at the Consulate in Shenyang.

It was the first time in the five-year tenure of President Lee Myung-bak that the Chinese government has allowed North Korean defectors hiding in South Korean diplomatic missions to come to South Korea. Remarks by Chinese President Hu Jintao in a meeting with Lee on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul on March 26 appear to have played a role in their release.

Hu told Lee that China “is taking a lot of interest and giving consideration to the issue of North Korean defectors and respects [South Korea’s] position. It will strive to ensure that the issue is resolved smoothly.”

Some say China’s decision is a kind of warning to Pyongyang. China urged North Korea through diplomatic channels to halt the launch of what Pyongyang says is a space rocket but was rebuffed, and some experts believe that prompted Beijing to let the defectors go.

But China apparently stressed that their release was an exception. China’s official stance regarding North Korean defectors remains the same, placing more importance on its pact with Pyongyang to repatriate them than the UN treaty on the treatment of refugees.

Other experts say the release of the defectors demonstrates Beijing’s displeasure with Pyongyang over the missile launch. Beijing repeatedly allowed North Koreans who sought shelter in diplomatic missions in China to come to South Korea, but that stopped in the last three or four years, apparently due to pressure from Pyongyang.

Original article can be found here

In the News – North Korean Defector Sees Signs of Chinese Policy Shift


In the News – North Korean Defector Sees Signs of Chinese Policy Shift 

Protesters hold a poster during a rally by Now Action & Unity for North Korea Human Rights activists and North Korean defectors near the Chinese embassy in Seoul, FILE March 3, 2012.

Photo: Reuters Protesters hold a poster during a rally by Now Action & Unity for North Korea Human Rights activists and North Korean defectors near the Chinese embassy in Seoul, FILE March 3, 2012.

A research organization in Seoul says it is hopeful of better treatment for North Korean defectors in China following signs that the Chinese policy of forcing them to return home has eased.

Kang Chul Hwan, a founding director of the North Korea Strategy Center in Seoul, spoke Wednesday about media reports that a family of five has been permitted to travel to South Korea after almost three years in a South Korean consulate in Beijing.

South Korean government officials contacted by VOA confirmed the accuracy of the reports. Kung, who is himself a defector, said his group is still trying to obtain details about the Chinese action. Continue reading

Nam-Nam Buk-Nyuh: The Southern Man and the Northern Woman

Joint Defector Wedding

There’s a saying in Korea about “Southern men and Northern women.” Basically, it says that men from the South of the Korean Peninsula are handsome and women from the North are beautiful. My grandmother tells me that way back when, it was favorable for a man from the southern region to marry a woman from the northern region. Apparently, people thought that northern women had the full package. However, lately, it seems that this belief is coming back. Continue reading

In the News – Stop crackdown on N. Korean refugees


In the News – Stop crackdown on N. Korean refugees

By Sokeel Park

Western media attention on North Korea has recently been dominated by the U.S.-DPRK “Leap Day Deal” of food aid for nuclear concessions, and by Pyongyang’s subsequent announcement of a “satellite” launch to mark the centenary of Kim Il-sung’s birth, which would be a deal-breaker for the U.S. However, as usual, beneath all the high politics and focus on security concerns, there is quite a different story involving the North Korean people.

Away from the back and forth in U.S.-DPRK negotiations on security concerns, South Korea has been battling with the Chinese government over its forced repatriations of North Korean refugees. China is hemorrhaging soft-power on this issue, alienating the South Korean people and government and damaging its reputation before the international community. In the long run this is a strategic mistake.  Continue reading

North Korean Defectors in the United States

Image representing face of refugees from Eritrea

Officially back on campus, I decided to get involved with Yale’s branch of THiNK, There’s Hope in North Korea, once again. Thinking back to my previous year as a volunteer for the organization, I remembered that we had been fortunate enough to hear the story of a North Korean defector now living in America. She had described how she had tried to defect from North Korea on more than one occasion. After the first attempt, she, her brother, and mother had been captured and sent to a detention center where they had been tortured. After she had one day escaped, she started a new life in the United States. Unfortunately, I do not remember enough of her story to form a narrative of her personal journey to America, whether or not she spent a lot of time in a third country or in South Korea before coming here. I only remember that she occasionally shares her experiences with others in the same way that she had for us undergraduate students. Continue reading

In the News – Lee, Hu to Discuss N.Korea


In the News – Lee, Hu to Discuss N.Korea

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who came to Seoul on Sunday to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, meets his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak for the 10th time on Monday.

A Foreign Ministry official said, “Basically, all major issues between South Korea and China that have made headlines will be on the agenda.”

That is likely to include the hottest issue in bilateral relations, China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees.

North Korea’s plan to test a long-distance ballistic missile, which the regime claims is a satellite launch, is also likely to be discussed.

A diplomatic source said, “China’s role is the crucial to prevent North Korea’s reckless missile launch. We plan to ask China to join the sanctions against North Korea that are to be imposed if it goes ahead with the launch.”


Original article can be found here.

In the News – King urges N. Korea to stop punishing repatriated defectors


In the News – King urges N. Korea to stop punishing repatriated defectors

WASHINGTON, March 13 (Yonhap) — The U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues demanded in this week’s U.N. meeting that Pyongyang stop punishing forcefully repatriated defectors.

Robert King, attending a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday (local time), shared “deep concerns” about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers from the North, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the State Department
“We urge the DPRK to end the punishment and imprisonment of North Koreans who have sought asylum abroad, as well as their family members,” he said. The DPRK stands for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

A growing number of North Koreans cross the border into China, fleeing their authoritarian and perennially hungry homeland. Beijing, a key communist ally of Pyongyang, has a firm policy of sending them back.

King also called for Pyongyang to allow a visit by Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea. The secretive nation is accused of oppressing many of its 24 million people.

“We hope the DPRK will work with Mr. Darusman, and recognize the benefits of cooperating with the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and thematic special rapporteurs,” King said. “The DPRK could use this opportunity to obtain valuable assistance from international human rights mechanisms. We urge the DPRK to allow the special rapporteur to visit the country and fulfill his mandate to observe and assess the human rights situation.”

He stressed the importance of resuming inter-Korean dialogue and the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

“We appreciate the modest progress between DPRK officials and the American Red Cross on family reunions between Korean-Americans and family members in the DPRK, but we seek greater progress in this area,” King said.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Clinton urges China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors


In the News – Clinton urges China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, March 9 (Yonhap) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear Friday that her government is opposed to the forceful repatriation of North Korean refugees, a breach of international agreements.

“We urge every country to act according to international obligations,” such as the 1951 U.N. refugee convention and the 1967 protocol, Clinton said in a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan after their talks at the State Department building in Washington.

She was responding to a question on China’s policy of sending back North Korean defectors to their authoritarian and impoverished nation. Recently, China has repatriated around 30 North Koreans, according to human rights activists, although there is no government-level confirmation. Continue reading

In the News – China has repatriated North Korean defectors, South Korean official says


In the News – China has repatriated North Korean defectors, South Korean official says

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — Ignoring international protests, China may have repatriated around 30 North Korean defectors who had been caught while trying to escape their homeland, a South Korean official said Friday.

Park Sun-young, a South Korean lawmaker who had been on hunger strike protesting such repatriations, told CNN she believes the North Koreans have been sent back.  CNN cannot independently confirm the assertion. Continue reading

In the News – U.N. chief voices concern over N. Korean defectors in China


In the News – U.N. chief voices concern over N. Korean defectors in China

NEW YORK, March 8 (Yonhap) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “deep concern” Thursday over the fate of North Korean defectors in China, which has emerged as a key diplomatic issue between Seoul and Beijing, according to his office.

In a meeting with visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Ban “shared the deep concern with the Foreign Minister about the dislocated people from the DPRK, and encouraged the concerned parties to do their utmost to find a mutually agreeable solution,” the U.N. leader’s office said in a press release.

South Koreans are increasingly demanding China stop its forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors following media reports that around 30 North Koreans are in custody there and face deportation back to their hunger-stricken homeland.

Ban, formerly a South Korean foreign minister, also reiterated his worries about the severe food and nutrition problems in the North and welcomed some progress in talks between the U.S. and North Korea, Ban’s office said.

The South’s foreign minister, meanwhile, told reporters that the Seoul government and the U.N. agreed to continue consultations over the humanitarian issue in the North.

Kim said Seoul was trying to confirm press reports of the pending repatriation of North Koreans caught by Chinese authorities.

He is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Friday.

Original article can be found here

In the News – 2 Koreas to Debate N.Korean Defectors at UN


In the News – 2 Koreas to Debate N.Korean Defectors at UN

The UN special rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights, Marzuki Darusman, will preside over an international debate on North Korean defectors in Geneva on Monday with officials from North and South Korea and China attending. This is the first time the three countries will be discussing the issue at an international forum.

According to a government source, Darusman will report on his investigation of the human rights situation in North Korea at the forum attended by 47 representatives of UN Human Rights Council member nations. The government plans to point out the problems with the forced repatriation of North Korean refugees from China and urge the international community to prevent it.

North Korea and China are expected to press their claim that the defectors are in fact economic migrants who have temporarily crossed the border illegally and are no refugees.

The UNHRC plans to adopt a resolution on human rights in North Korea on April 22 or 23 calling for a halt of torture and other abuses of repatriated defectors.

Original article can be found here.