[EDITORIALS]New approach on defectors

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[EDITORIALS]New approach on defectors

China warned sternly that it would punish rights groups supporting North Korean defectors in its country. The first such action was the arrest of 67 North Koreans and their supporters. Beijing appears to judge that a serious social problem will arise if it ignores the North Korean asylum-seekers’ entry into foreign diplomatic missions.
China is taking action based on its domestic laws. But it must remember one thing: Human rights, the universal values of the human race, must be respected. Human rights can never be neglected even if they infringe on sovereign rights. China should not infringe on the North Korean defectors’ rights in order to punish the activist groups.
China said it would maintain the fundamental policy of handling defectors by applying humanitarian principles and the recognition of the diplomatic immunity of foreign missions, and we welcome such a decision. Beijing must show that its policy is valid by allowing the defectors already in diplomatic missions to go to the South. China should not launch intense crackdowns or repatriate North Korean refugees en masse. Beijing should know what kind of criticism it will face from international society.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman said that “a country,” implying South Korea, was “shielding North Korean defectors.” That is diplomatically rude, but Beijing made clear that it was extremely serious about its recent measures to punish rights groups assisting defectors. Seoul, therefore, must be more aware of the problem and engage in the matter more actively.
First, Seoul must do its best so that China will release the two South Korean activists arrested during the recent crackdown. Seoul should also make diplomatic efforts to bar North Koreans from being sent back to their homeland.
Seoul should also get a better understanding of the rights groups supporting the defectors in China. Many are active despite the risk of arrest. But some are arranging defections to earn money. The government should stop such broker groups. It should talk to the activists to minimize unwanted repercussions from their human rights activities.
The activist groups should also develop a strategic mind. Sometimes they are driving the defectors into deep trouble when their intention was to help them.
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