[EDITORIALS]'I have no fatherland!'We welcome the Chinese government's speedy decision to help 25 North Koreans seeking asylum at the Spanish Embassy in Beijing come to the South. The Spanish government and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which have cooperated with the South Korean government, also deserve credit for their efforts to resolve the issue.
The governments and the international human rights organization involved handled the incident in a very swift and clean manner. We note especially that Beijing dealt with the difficult issue in the same way it helped Jang Gil-soo and his family defect to South Korea last year. The accumulation of such cases can set precedents for solving other similar incidents that might occur in the future.
But such methods have their own limits; they can be employed only when unexpected incidents take place. Storming an embassy is not the right way to solve the problem of North Korean refugees living miserable lives as fugitives in China. Their numbers may be in the tens of thousands. In addition, incidents such as this and the Jang Gil-soo case may make life more difficult for refugees in China. After young Mr. Jang's defection to Seoul, the Chinese government launched a massive campaign to round up many North Korean refugees and repatriated them back to the North.
Considering that Beijing handled the latest case from a purely humanitarian perspective, doing away with its long-standing policy of saving Pyeongyang's face, we believe that the Chinese government will not again react with a sweeping roundup of Koreans in China. We urge Beijing not to do so again.
The defection was plotted by international nongovernmental organizations, but will not solve the issue of North Korean defectors. Using the worldwide publicity that this case has received, Seoul, Beijing and the international community should create a multilateral council to come up with fundamental solutions to this refugee problem.
Doing so would be in the national interest of China, which has recently raised its profile in the international community by winning the right to host the Olympic Games in Beijing and joining the World Trade Organization. A solution to the refugee problem would also be desirable for Korea's future and its national identity.
In particular, we believe that the South Korean government must throw away the lukewarm posture it has taken on the refugee issue. It must work hard to establish Korea's national identity, and think seriously about the plaintive cry of a North Korean who was forcefully sent back to Pyeongyang. "I thought that hunger was the biggest grief in the world. Now what cuts deep into my heart is that I don't have a fatherland I can depend upon," he said.
Is that not a shameful reflection on us? The constitution of South Korea says North Koreans are its citizens. It saddens us that a citizen of Korea, which has grown to become one of the world's most advanced countries and the 13th-largest economy on the globe, cried out that he had no fatherland to turn to. That was a result of Seoul's low-profile diplomacy, even on human rights issues concerning North Korean refugees, because it does not want to undermine its policy of reconciliation and cooperation with Pyeongyang.
Separate from the "sunshine policy" of engagement with the North, the South Korean government must draw up wide-ranging, generous plans to protect the lives and human rights of Korean citizens in China, and push China strongly to negotiate a solution to the problem. The government must also seek ways, if necessary, to cooperate with the international community and nongovernmental organizations on the issue.