[EDITORIALS]More defectors are on the wayOn Wednesday, 44 North Korean defectors entered the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. There are points worth noting regarding the timing and size of this incident. This recent defection is the biggest at a foreign embassy so far. Also, the way the group attempted entry shows that North Koreans are becoming more daring.
In early September, when defectors attempted to enter a Japanese school in Beijing, they cut the barbed wire to enter the school grounds. This time, the group of defecting women, men and children climbed over the wall using a ladder in broad daylight.
The defectors are attempting to enter a wider range of missions. This incident heralds a rush of similar defection attempts. If defectors succeed in entering foreign embassies, it is almost certain they will come to South Korea.
In 2001, the number of incoming North Korean defectors totaled about 600, but this year alone, through September, there have been more than 1,400.
But the bigger problem will come if the United States’ North Korean Human Rights Act is enacted next year. This bill provides $24 million annually in aid for the next four years to individuals and groups that provide humanitarian support to defectors.
This law may become a catalyst for a mass exodus from North Korea. It’s more likely that thousands, or even tens of thousands, of North Koreans may attempt to leave their home country, especially now that the bill would allow North Korean defectors to seek asylum in the United States via a third country.
This will make American facilities in China an attractive target of entry for defectors. If this happens, it may become a diplomatic issue among the two Koreas, the United States and China.
The Korean government must realize that the defector issue is not something in the distant future but one that is pending and urgent. It must now move away from the stereotyped and stale countermeasures of the past.
Hanawon, the main training facility for defectors, houses 300 people at once and 2,000 each year. How will this allow for the proper orientation of a drastically increasing number of defectors?
We must change our perspectives on dealing with defectors. We must prepare in advance for the mass influx instead of waiting around. This is now an urgent matter.