In the News – Freed activist renews efforts to help N.K. human rights

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In the News – Freed activist renews efforts to help N.K. human rights

Kim Young-hwan, the prominent anti-North Korea activist freed Friday from detention in China, pledged to continue his fight for democracy and human rights in the communist country.

Kim, 49, and his three colleagues arrived in Seoul on the same day China expelled them after 114 days of detention. They were arrested on March 29 in the northeastern border city of Dalian apparently for helping North Korean refugees. They were charged with “endangering national security.”

“The reality in North Korea is that it is suffering from a brutal dictatorship and horrendous human rights situation,” Kim told reporters upon arrival at Incheon International Airport.

“At a time when far-away countries strive for North Korean human rights and democratization, as a fellow Korean it is my right and duty to do so.”

Kim Young-hwan gestures on his arrival at Incheon Interna­tional Airport on Friday. (Yonhap News)

Kim’s detention attracted heavy public and media interest for his dramatic life. In the 1980s, he was a pro-North Korea movement leader playing a key role in disseminating Pyongyang’s philosophy of “juche,” or self-reliance.

He turned to activism against the coercive regime’s human rights abuses in the 1990s and is currently a senior researcher for the Seoul-based Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights.

The other crusaders are Yoo Jae-gil, 43, Kang Shin-sam, 41, and Lee Sang-yong, 31.

His release may place North Korea under greater pressure over human rights issues amid growing international criticism over its harsh punishment of repatriated defectors and political prisoners, observers say.

China, the North’s lone major ally, has also been blamed for deporting North Korean asylum seekers despite the torture, labor camps or public executions they face back home, calling them “illegal economic migrants.”

With Pyongyang’s tighter border control and China’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, however, concerns have arisen that North Korean defectors hiding there could become more exposed to abuses.

Open Radio for North Korea reported early this year that about 20,000 additional North Korean soldiers have been mobilized to border regions, warning severe penalties for those who get caught fleeing.

In March, Beijing launched a nationwide crackdown on foreigners who illegally crossed borders, gained jobs and overstayed their visas.

More than 23,500 North Koreans have sought asylum in the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, according to the Unification Ministry. The figure steadily rose each year from 1,383 in 2005 to 2,927 in 2009, although it slid to 2,376 in 2010 due to strengthened border security.

In the State Department’s report on human rights in 199 countries released late last month, North Korea was rated as “extremely poor” and remained at the bottom of the agency’s list along with China, Iran, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belarus.

The North has rebuffed accusations of its rights abuses, which it bills as an attempt to oust its government.

Original Article

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In the News – China allows N. Koreans to leave for Seoul: reports

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In the News – China allows N. Koreans to leave for Seoul: reports

Seoul, May 18, 2012 (AFP) – China has allowed six North Korean refugees to leave for South Korea after they spent months holed up in Seoul’s consular offices in China, news reports said Friday.

Following their departure last week there are no more North Koreans left at South Korean diplomatic missions in China, the Korea JoongAng Daily and the Seoul Shinmun Daily said.

A South Korean foreign ministry spokeswoman declined to comment.

Beijing allowed the six defectors, who had been holed up at the South Korean missions in Shenyang and Shanghai for many months, to travel to the South through a third country, the dailies said, quoting sources.

China’s decision to let the defectors leave was apparently made as a goodwill gesture before a meeting between South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Korea JoongAng Daily said.

Lee met Hu on Monday in Beijing following an annual trilateral summit with China and Japan.

The six included two relatives of a South Korean prisoner of war, captured by the North during the 1950-53 Korean War. Of the remaining four, two were identified as men and two as women, the reports said.

China last month reportedly allowed another five North Korean defectors to leave for South Korea after they were confined to Seoul’s Beijing embassy to avoid arrest. Some spent months there but others spent years.

China arrests and repatriates fugitives from North Korea, considering them to be economic migrants rather than potential refugees.

South Korea and international rights groups have urged it to change the policy, saying returnees can face harsh punishment.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled poverty or repression in their homeland, almost all of them across the border to China.

Some hide out among — or marry into — the ethnic Korean community in China’s northeast. Others try to travel on to Southeast Asian nations before flying to Seoul.

 

Original article can be found here.

China, Refugees… and Repatriation?

If you’ve been on our blog during the past few months, you may have noticed the news articles about the North Korean refugees being held in China. These refugees have gotten international notice from human rights activists, politicians, and celebrities alike but unfortunately it may not make a difference.

Let me give you some background information on this incident. Early in February, Chinese officials arrested a group of North Korea refugees who had crossed the Sino-Korean border in order to escape the grips of the North Korean government. This issue was first exposed to the world on February 14th through Donga News. It is believed that China eventually arrested 31 refugees and their fate has been up in the air since then. Among those captured, it is said that there are young children and maybe even an infant. Many of these people have family waiting for them in South Korea, family members that can do nothing but wait for their safe arrival. Continue reading

In the News – Presidential aide urges efforts to save N. Korean defectors in China

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In the News – Presidential aide urges efforts to save N. Korean defectors in China

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) — A special aide to the South Korean president on Tuesday urged active efforts by the government to assist dozens of North Korean defectors in China who await deportation back to their communist homeland where they are likely to face harsh punishment.

Hyun In-taek, a special presidential aide for unification, also called for the early passage of a North Korean human rights act currently awaiting a vote by the country’s parliament.

“There need to be active measures (to save North Korean defectors) when these defectors may face severe punishment, including execution, should they be sent back to North Korea,” he said in a special lecture to the National Unification Advisory Council. Continue reading

In the News – China Urged to Change Course on N. Korean Defectors

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In the News – China Urged to Change Course on N. Korean Defectors

Photo: AP A North Korean defector holds a banner during a rally for North Korean refugees who were repatriated by the Chinese government, in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. (2011 File)

China is facing growing calls to stop the repatriation of dozens of North Koreans who recently fled into China and are being held by authorities. China says it has the right to send them back, calling them “economic migrants.”  But human rights activists say the detainees could face torture and execution, if they are returned to North Korea.

U.S. lawmakers held a hearing on Monday to highlight the urgency of the situation.

Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey and head of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said that in recent weeks Chinese authorities have detained dozens of North Koreans who have fled to China. Continue reading

In the News – Opposition lawmaker taken to hospital during hunger strike

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In the News – Opposition lawmaker taken to hospital during hunger strike

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) — A high-profile South Korean opposition lawmaker fainted and was taken to hospital for treatment Friday as she entered her 11th day of a hunger strike demanding China not repatriate North Korean defectors.

Rep. Park Sun-young of the conservative minor Liberty Forward Party was sitting in a chair in front of a church and listening to a North Korean defector’s speech when she suddenly fainted, an Yonhap News Agency photographer said.

In the News – South Korea passes resolution on North Korea refugees

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In the News – South Korea passes resolution on North Korea refugees

South Korean rights activists perform role of mock Chinese police and North Korean refugee outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul on 21 February, 2012

South Korean rights activists perform role of mock Chinese police and North Korean refugee outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul on 21 February, 2012

South Korea’s parliament has passed a resolution demanding that China stops the repatriation of North Korean refugees.

The move follows a string of protests over the fate of some 30 North Koreans who are reportedly facing deportation from China and harsh repercussions.

The resolution was backed by 154 lawmakers on Tuesday. Continue reading

In the News – Ruling party proposes citizenship certificates for N. Korean defectors

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In the News – Ruling party proposes citizenship certificates for N. Korean defectors

Rep. Park Sun-young stages a hunger strike in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to urge Beijing not to repatriate North Korean defectors back to their communist homeland (Yonhap file photo)

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. Continue reading