In the News – With crackdown, N. Korea puts a hold on defectors

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In the News – With crackdown, N. Korea puts a hold on defectors

By , Published: July 21

SEOUL — With tighter border security and harsher punishments for those who cross into China, North Korea has forced a swift and drastic drop-off in defections this year, according to aid groups and South Korean officials.

The crackdown, they say, coincides with the rise of new leader Kim Jong Eun, and suggests that his authoritarian police state is not only worried about people leaving the country, but also strong enough to stop them.

As many as 20,000 additional soldiers have been dispatched to the Chinese border, according to Seoul’s Open Radio for North Korea, which has a network of contacts in the North. Those guards, threatened with punishment of their own, have become less willing to take bribes from would-be defectors, other aid groups say.

As a result, outside experts say, the number of North Koreans entering the South after a circuitous journey through China is plummeting.

Last year, 2,706 North Koreans came to the South. During the first half of this year, there have been only 751 — a 42 percent decline compared with the same period a year earlier.

The unprecedented drop off reverses a 15-year trend. The downturn is especially jarring because it challenges an underlying assumption held by many analysts in the South that the North would face an ever-mounting problem keeping people within its borders. Indeed, after the North’s famine in the mid-1990s, the number of defectors arriving in the South rose exponentially — from fewer than 100 in 1997 to more than 1,000 in 2002 to nearly 3,000 in the past few years, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification. Continue reading

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In the News – Young general comes out as mother’s boy

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In the News – Young general comes out as mother’s boy

By Kosuke Takahashi

TOKYO – In a risky gamble, Pyongyang is resting its hopes for the survival of the Kim regime on one woman – a dead one at that. Struggling to cement his dynastic credentials, young North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun has launched a mass deification campaign for his mother and the first lady of late leader Kim Jong-il, Ko Young-hee, who is believed to have died in 2004.

Since May, Young-hee has been praised as the “Respected Mother”, the “Great Mother” and “The Mother of The Great Military First Korea”, as can been seen in a film and photographs obtained by Asia Times Online this month from Rescue the North Korean People! (RENK), a Japan-based citizens’ group supporting ordinary North Koreans.

The idolization of Young-hee connects a missing link in the blood-heir’s succession over three generations from the country’s founding father Kim Il-sung to Kim Jong-il and to Kim Jong-eun.


Ko Young-hee poses with her husband for a propaganda shot

Experts say the deification campaign is part of accelerated North Korean efforts to mythologize and legitimize its revolutionary tradition. Pyongyang’s official accounts claim this originated in the sacred Mt Paektu, the highest peak in the Korean Peninsula and the birthplace, in propaganda accounts, of Kim Jong-il. (Soviet records show that he was actually born in a village in Russia’s Far East.)

The video of Ko does not mention an inconvenient truth – Young-hee was born in Japan – the brutal colonial ruler of Korea from 1910-1945. She was born in the famous Koreatown, Tsuruhashi, in Osaka, in 1952. Her father, Ko Kyung-taek, made Imperial Japanese Army soldiers’ uniforms in a sewing factory during World War II.

“North Korea needs to cover up the fact that Ko Young-hee was born and raised in Osaka,” said RENK spokesman Lee Young-hwa, adding that her family moved to North Korea only in the early 1960s as part of a repatriation program.


The video and photographs stress that Ko Young-hee had a strong relationship with the military.

Sound and vision
The rare 85 minutes of video footage and 93 photographs of Ko Young-hee for the first time reveal her vivid appearance and voice. In the video and photos, she accompanies Kim Jong-il to military camps, factories and farms. She is seen riding a white horse, following her husband on another white horse.

She inspects a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades with Kim Jong-il, with both wearing the same vintage Courreges sunglasses that became trademark apparel for her husband. They murmured words into each other’s ears and smiled. The video shows a very happily married couple.


This image of Ko Young-hee was likely inspired by the Korean song General on a Galloping White Horse.

In one scene, she visits a barrack and expresses concern about soldiers’ daily lives. She tastes a soldier’s home-made donut, then teaches them how to cook a potato-based donut. In the following days, she sends them sugar and cooking oils.

The movie aims to conjure an image of the “Mother of The Great Military First Korea”, which is the video’s title. The movie uses emotional female narration and a rousing musical score in the classic North Korean style of propaganda.

She is also seen holding a gun, suggesting a strong wife who always protects her husband. This was echoed scenes of Kim Jong-suk, or Kim Il-sung’s first wife and Kim Jong-il’s mother, who was a guerilla and communist politician. The images also showed Ko met many dignitaries abroad, stressing her precious role as the first lady.


Ko Young-hee pictured with an unknown foreigner.

The attempts to establish Ko’s authority also stress the Kim dynasty’s heroic family lineage, which stretches back to Jong-eun’s grandfather’s partisan guerilla activities against Japan in the 1930s.

After Ko’s family moving back to North Korea in the early 1960s, she worked as a dancer for the prestigious Mansudae Art Troupe in Pyongyang, where she met Kim Jong-il. She is believed to have died in Paris due to breast cancer in 2004, which the video also does not mention.


Ko Young-hee pictured with a young Kim Jong-eun.

By sanctifying the late Ko, Kim Jong-eun is trying to underscore his authority as the North’s new leader. The efforts also come as the “young general” has been repeatedly seen with a woman who is believed to Hyon Song-wol, a former singer in a popular group called Bochonbo Electronic Music Band.

However, making it tricky for propagandists there are no photos or scenes of Jong-eun with his parents. RENK’s Lee points out that this was because Kim Jong-eun was studying in Switzerland from 1996 to 2002 when the video was made. In contrast, North Korea has shown many photos of Kim Jong-il with his parents, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-suk.

An ugly truth
It is widely known among Japanese experts on North Korea that Ko Young-hee’s father moved from Cheju Island to Japan in 1929. He worked for Hirota Hokojo, a needlework factory under the control of the Imperial Army of Japan. This means Jong-eun’s grandfather was a collaborator with the Japanese imperialists. This can never be revealed by Pyongyang as it might shock the population.

In addition, Young-hee’s younger sister, Ko Young-suk, and her family defected to the United Sates in 1998 in the middle of the nation’s “great famine”, in which millions of people died of starvation. This makes Kim Jong-eun’s aunt a national traitor. According to the South Korean media, Kim Jong-eun himself has given orders to execute any defectors by a firing squad and their families expelled to internal exile.

Sanctifying Young-hee may provide indirect support for her son, but it is a risky ploy. Information on her birth and family may trickle out to the isolationist country, damaging his legitimacy as national leader. Ko Young-hee’s background continues to be one of Kim Jong-eun’s – as well as North Korea’s – dangerously weak spots.

Original Article

In the News – China likely to release S. Korean activist soon: source

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In the News – China likely to release S. Korean activist soon: source

SEOUL, July 10 (Yonhap) — A South Korean activist held in China for allegedly helping North Korean defectors there is likely to be released soon following months of pressure from Seoul and civic groups, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.

The release of Kim Young-hwan, a senior researcher for the Seoul-based civic group Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, is likely to come before or after the visit of Chinese Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu to Seoul later this week, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Kim, 49, was one of four South Korean activists arrested in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian on March 29. The group is accused of endangering China’s national security, a serious charge that carries heavy punishment, but no further details have been made available, according to officials in Seoul.

It is believed the detentions are related to the activists’ efforts to help North Korea defectors hiding in China and improve the North’s human rights conditions and other activities Pyongyang considers an affront to its totalitarian regime.

“It is common sense to expect (China) to resolve the case of Kim Young-hwan before Minister Meng’s visit to Seoul,” the source said. “If Kim is indicted and his activities become known, this could create a stir, so China is likely to release him first and then deport him.”

Meng is scheduled to arrive in Seoul Thursday for a three-day visit, during which he will meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan among other officials, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry.

China is a key ally of North Korea and typically repatriates North Korean defectors caught within its borders. Activists and lawmakers in South Korea and other countries have recently stepped up pressure on Beijing to stop the forced repatriation, and release the South Korean detainees.

A senior ministry official said the government has not been informed of an exact timing for their release, although it continues to be in talks with Beijing.

“There are often ‘gifts’ during a high-level visit from China, and I understand that the recent atmosphere in China (regarding the issue) isn’t bad,” said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kim, the activist, is a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance. He met with the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung in 1991 after sneaking into the North via a North Korean submersible.

However, he later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the dismal human rights record in North Korea.

Original Article

In the News – Int’l Pressure Growing Over N.Korean Human Rights

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In the News – Int’l Pressure Growing Over N.Korean Human Rights

The international community has taken one step further in addressing human rights issues in North Korea, from simply raising the problem to demanding changes from the governments of China and North Korea. Recent developments clearly reflect the change of mood.

The UN Human Rights Council addressed China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees in March, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees recently concluded that the wife and two daughters of a prominent South Korean activist are being unlawfully detained in the North.

The European Parliament on May 24 adopted a resolution urging the Chinese government to stop repatriating North Korean escapees and abandon a treaty with North Korea on border control signed in 1986. It also urges Beijing to release Kim Young-hwan, a South Korean activist, and his colleagues.

The European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights invited U.S. human rights ambassador Robert King and Kim Tae-jin of activist group Free the NK Gulag to a hearing on human rights in North Korea on Tuesday.

King is also scheduled to visit in South Korea on June 7 to exchange views on human rights condition in North Korea. He may also visit China.

Original article can be found here.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Remains of S. Korean soldiers killed in N. Korea return home for 1st time

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In the News – Remains of S. Korean soldiers killed in N. Korea return home for 1st time

SEOUL, May 25 (Yonhap) — The remains of South Korean soldiers killed in North Korea during the Korean War returned home on Friday via the U.S., marking the first such repatriation of South Korean war dead since the 1953 armistice.

Twelve sets of remains, two of which have been positively identified, were among 226 sets recovered in the northern part of North Korea by a U.S. excavation team between 2000 and 2004, before Washington halted the joint recovery mission with Pyongyang due to concerns over the safety and security of its workers.

After conducting DNA tests, the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii confirmed last August that some of the remains were those of Asian soldiers.

Since then, Seoul and Washington have conducted joint analyses to identify the remains and 12 sets were confirmed to be from South Korean soldiers, officials at Seoul’s defense ministry said.

The 12 sets of remains were flown Friday to a military airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, where they were met with an honor guard ceremony attended by President Lee Myung-bak, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Army Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. House passes bill on N. Korean human rights

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In the News – U.S. House passes bill on N. Korean human rights

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 15 (Yonhap) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday calling for bipartisan efforts to address North Korea’s human rights violations, according to a congressional source.

Members of the House approved by voice vote the legislation on extending until 2017 the authority of the North Korean Human Rights Act, added the source.

The act provides the legal ground for the U.S. government’s financial support for radio stations broadcasting to North Korea and the appointment of a special envoy on the North’s human rights issues.

The reauthorization bill notes that, “Although the transition to the leadership of Kim Jong-un after the death of Kim Jong-il has introduced new uncertainties and possibilities, the fundamental human rights and humanitarian conditions inside North Korea remains deplorable and North Korean refugees remain acutely vulnerable.”

It also urges China to immediately halt its forcible repatriation of North Koreans.

The Senate is also expected to approve the bill without a major dispute, the source said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Arrivals of N. Korean defectors drop

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In the News – Arrivals of N. Korean defectors drop

SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) — A total of 366 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea in the first three months of this year, down sharply from 566 in the same period last year, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday.

The North Koreans are composed of 119 men and 247 women, according to the ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Rights activists said the number of new arrivals decreased as the defection of North Koreans has become more difficult due to crackdowns on defectors and increased costs in illegally crossing the border into China.

Many North Korean defectors in the South claim that they bribed North Korean guards to flee across the border into China.

South Korea is home to more than 23,500 North Korean defectors as a constant stream of North Koreans has fled their communist homeland to try to avoid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

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In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

North Korea detains university students over a failed rocket launch.

North Korean students work on their computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, April 11, 2012.

Authorities in North Korea are hunting down college students suspected of “spreading rumors” about a recent failed rocket launch amid warnings the reclusive state may stage a nuclear test.

North Korea defied international warnings and fired a long-range rocket on April 13 saying that it would carry a satellite into space, but the rocket crashed into the sea just minutes after takeoff, drawing condemnation from the U.S. and its allies who called the act a “provocative” move.

New leader Kim Jong Un had shrugged off international concerns and pushed ahead with the launch in conjunction with the 100th birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the deceased founder of the state.

Now, according to students, security personnel at some universities in North Korea are being instructed to take those who talk about the rocket failure into custody.

“The authorities are hunting down students who have spread rumors about the failed launch of the Kwangmyung-sung-3 [satellite] at the Hoeryong Teacher Training College (now renamed Kim Jong Suk Teacher Training College),” said one student from North Hamyong province, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Continue reading

In the News – Protests for N.Korean Defectors Sent Powerful Signal

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In the News – Protests for N.Korean Defectors Sent Powerful Signal

Protests across the street from the Chinese Embassy in Seoul that began in February against Beijing’s forced repatriation of North Korean defectors came to an end on Monday. It had been 77 days since the protests began with a press conference by conservative Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Park Sun-young on Feb. 13 calling on Beijing to stop the repatriation of 24 North Korean defectors who were caught hiding in China.

Residents of the neighborhood complained about inconvenience as the demonstrations dragged on, and police and the Jongno District Office also requested that they end.

At first, the protests did not gain much attention. Then on Feb. 21 Park began a hunger strike and actor Cha In-pyo showed up with around 50 teenage North Korean defectors, drawing widespread attention to the demonstrations. Lee Ae-ran, the first North Korean defector to earn a PhD in South Korea, took the baton from Park and carried on the hunger strike, followed by other prominent officials. Continue reading

In the News – Survivor of N. Korean prison camp appeals for action on those left behind

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In the News – Survivor of N. Korean prison camp appeals for action on those left behind

PARIS, May 1 (Yonhap) — A North Korean defector who is the only known person to have escaped from a notorious political prison camp in the North has appealed for global action to prevent the ongoing tragedy of political prisoners in the isolated nation.

Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in a North Korean concentration camp and escaped to freedom in 2005, gave a personal account of life there, saying inmates were subjected to torture, hard labor and arbitrary execution.

“Even now, it is not too late. We should prevent a massacre (in the North Korean prison camps),” the 31-year-old Shin told the audience at a lecture in Paris, warning that Holocaust-style slaughter could occur there any time if the outside world continues to turn a deaf ear to the testimony of defectors. Continue reading

In the News – Defectors send anti-regime leaflets to N. Korea

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In the News – Defectors send anti-regime leaflets to N. Korea

PAJU, South Korea, April 28 (Yonhap) — About 40 North Korean defectors launched balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the communist state Saturday, as the communist country stepped up its saber-rattling against the South.

The activists from the Fighters for Free North Korea group sent 10 large balloons carrying 200,000 leaflets from Imjingak pavilion in the northern border city of Paju about 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul.

Activists in the South have frequently sent propaganda leaflets across the border, condemning the autocratic North Korean regime and calling for an uprising against the leadership. The isolationist country is currently ruled by Kim Jong-un, the grandson of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung.

Pyongyang has frequently threatened retaliation for the South’s anti-regime propaganda activities including the launching of leaflets, although no real actions have been taken place so far.

Recently, the North threatened military retaliation against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and those that have insulted the integrity of the communist regime.

 

Original article can be found here.

After Kim Jong-Il: America and the Two Koreas

Recently while listening to the National Public Radio (NPR) in the car I came across this program, made by “America Abroad,” about predictions on the future of North Korea and its relations with America. I found the nearly hour-long program at the “America Abroad” website and thought it would be helpful to show others this fairly comprehensive study of the past of Korean relations and to highlight its main points for those who don’t have a free hour to listen to the entire program. The program ended with a quote on the current state of relations; “The 65 million dollar question is… are we going to be ready if this succession doesn’t work.” This question colored the discussion on predictions for the future and unification through the hour. Continue reading

In the News – 8 N.Korean Defectors Arrive in Seoul

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In the News – 8 N.Korean Defectors Arrive in Seoul

Eight North Korean defectors who fled a logging camp in Russia arrived in South Korea earlier this month. According to a government source, the eight defectors arrived in Seoul aboard a Russian passenger jet on April 13 with the aid of the South Korean Embassy in Moscow.

They are being interviewed at a government facility in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province about the motive for their defection. The eight are just part of 40 North Korean loggers who are waiting in Moscow to go to South Korea.

The loggers were sent to Siberia seven to 10 years ago to earn foreign currency but apparently fled because they could not endure the harsh weather, extortion and constant surveillance. With the help of religious support groups, they were granted refugee status by the UN, but Moscow refused to let them leave after former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to Russia in August last year.

Kim Hee-tae, head of one religious group, vowed to maintain contact with the remaining 32 and make sure they too can come to South Korea.

 

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 – No Orders to Stop Repatriation

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In the News – No Orders to Stop Repatriation

Yomiuri Shimbun reported on the 18th that the Chinese government has stopped forced repatriation of the North Korean defectors in China however no guidelines or situations have changed. Rather, crackdowns on the defectors have intensified.

The Japanese newspaper citing a Chinese official revealed, “The Chinese government stopped forced repatriation for reasons that North Korea did not give them advance notice on their long-range rocket launch”. The Shimbun stated, “The Chinese government even after the death of Kim Jong Il in December of last year has repatriated roughly 30 defectors to North Korea everyday”.

But it appeared that the Chinese government, even after North Korea’s announcement of rocket launch last month, has continued to repatriate North Korean defectors. In addition, the Chinese frontier guards and public security officials have been strengthening its inspection and enforcement activities at the North Korea-China border.  Continue reading

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

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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 Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to N.Korea

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In the News – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to N.Korea

China has joined other world powers in warning North Korea that they will not tolerate any more provocations after the isolated nation’s failed rocket launch last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late Monday in Brasilia that the UN Security Council members, including China, are agreed there will be “further consequences” in the event of another provocative act by North Korea. Recent satellite photographs show Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground nuclear test.

China’s state-controlled media are also showing signs of frustration with Pyongyang, noting that China took “a clear attitude in condemning” its longtime ally when it backed a UN Security Council statement criticizing the rocket launch. Continue reading

In the News – China eases repatriating policy!

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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 – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to North Korea

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In the News – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to North Korea

China has joined other world powers in warning North Korea that they will not tolerate any more provocations after the isolated nation’s failed rocket launch last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late Monday in Brasilia that the U.N. Security Council members, including China, are agreed there will be “further consequences” in the event of another provocative act by North Korea. Recent satellite photographs show Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground nuclear test.

China’s state-controlled media are also showing signs of frustration with Pyongyang, noting that China took “a clear attitude in condemning” its longtime ally when it backed a U.N. Security Council statement criticizing the rocket launch. Continue reading

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

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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