[EDITORIALS]Hurrah! But Refugees Need More

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[EDITORIALS]Hurrah! But Refugees Need More

Fortunately, Jang Gil-suh and six other family members, who had defected from North Korea and staged a sit-in demanding asylum in the Beijing office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, were allowed safe passage to a third country by Chinese authorities, eventually arriving in South Korea.

The fate of Gil-suh and his family has drawn international media attention to the plight of North Korean defectors who live in hiding in China and has heightened calls to rescue and assist them. We urge the government to cast aside its perception of defectors as obstacles to its relations with the North and to engage in negotiations with China for their entry to South Korea. We also urge China and North Korea to resolve to allow North Korean defectors in China to lead a humane life.

First, we commend the UNHCR and the Chinese government for their handling of the fate of Gil-suh's famiIy. We regret, however, that the Chinese government did not accept UNHCR's proposal to grant the family refugee status. Its unusually quick handling of the case, giving them safe passage - not deportation - to a third country, is regarded as an improvement. Although China has maintained that the case was given "special treatment," it left a precedent that could be referred to in similar cases. This could open the way for China to grant refugee status to the hundreds of thousands of North Korean defectors roaming China and their transfer to our custody.

North Korea also showed more maturity in handling the case by not making it a source of conflict in inter-Korean relations and a sensitive diplomatic issue. We ask China to be discreet in its search for defectors and regulating non-governmental organizations that provide aid to them.

Also, we urge South Korean civic groups engaged in defector relief activities to respect the Chinese government's sovereignty and authority. Foremost, the government should thoroughly investigate the present situation of North Korean defectors and look into violations of their human rights. It should then support comprehensive rescue activities.
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