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

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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

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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

In the News – Stop crackdown on N. Korean refugees

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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 – S. Korea keeps up pressure on China over N. Korean defectors

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In the News – S. Korea keeps up pressure on China over N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) — South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan urged his Chinese counterpart Friday to deal with North Korean defectors held in China in line with international rules, pressing Beijing not to repatriate them to their homeland where they face severe punishment and even death.

Kim made the request to the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi when they held talks in Seoul that focused on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, Seoul officials said.

“During the talks, Minister Kim emphasized that China should respect international laws in dealing with the issue of North Korean defectors, based on a humanitarian perspective and the principle of no forced repatriation,” said a senior Seoul official who took part in the talks. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. activists urge China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

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In the News – U.S. activists urge China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, March 1 (Yonhap) — A group of U.S.-based human rights activists staged an eye-catching protest rally Thursday right in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, demanding Beijing stop the forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors.

In a street performance, a participant, wearing the uniform of Chinese security officials, dragged two women, with their faces masked and hands tied with ropes. Continue reading

In the News – 150,000 Sign Global Petition for N.Koreans in China

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In the News – 150,000 Sign Global Petition for N.Koreans in China

A child holds a picket sign against Chinas repatriation of North Korean defectors in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul on Monday.

A child holds a picket sign against Chinas repatriation of North Korean defectors in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul on Monday.

Some 153,000 people have signed a worldwide online petition to stop China repatriating a group of North Korean defectors who were arrested there. The petition started on a website called www.change.org on Feb. 12 and has now drawn signatures from people from 100 countries, including South Korea, the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, Russia and even China itself.

Anyone can launch an online petition drive at change.org or find one or take part in an existing signature drive. The website www.savemyfriend.org opens straight to the online petition.

Staff at savemyfriend.org said they confirmed that people from around 100 countries accessed the website and left their signatures. “We delivered the petition” then containing about 147,000 signatures, “to the Japanese and U.S. embassies in South Korea.”

“We initially targeted 200,000 signatures but now aim to draw 1 million three weeks from now and send them to the heads of each country and to the UN Human Rights Council.”

Original article can be found here

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

In the News – S. Korea to call on China to comply with refugee law for N. Korean defectors

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In the News – S. Korea to call on China to comply with refugee law for N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) — In what appears to be a policy shift to step up efforts to avoid repatriation of North Korean defectors detained in China to their communist homeland, South Korea said Sunday it will urge Beijing to comply with an international refugee law. Continue reading

In the News – Defectors, activists hold rally to condemn rights abuses in N. Korea

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In the News – Defectors, activists hold rally to condemn rights abuses in N. Korea

By Kim Kwang-tae
SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) — About 150 activists and North Korean defectors held a symbolic rally in central Seoul Friday to protest against human rights abuses in North Korea.

The protest is timed to mark the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 1.1 million Jews died during the Holocaust.

Human rights advocacy groups have long called for international efforts to stop genocide and crimes against humanity which they claim are being systematically carried out by North Korean authorities. Continue reading