[EDITORIALS]A plan for the North’s refugeesIt has been revealed that the United States has decided to accept North Korean refugees and is holding negotiations with the Chinese and South Korean governments. This is part of the follow-up measures to the North Korean Human Rights Act that was passed last year.
Some North Korean defectors are trying at this moment to illegally enter the United States through neighboring Canada and Mexico or asking the U.S. government for asylum while residing near its borders. Also, one defector even tried to seek political asylum at the American consulate in Vladivostok, Russia last year. The United States currently disallows refugees from the Stalinist state.
But the enactment of the law will allow North Korean refugees asylum in the United States. Considering that the country accepts some 50,000 refugees annually, it will not be difficult for it to bear a small increase.
The new policy, however, will bring an altered situation for both Koreas and China. The Kim Jong-il regime will most likely openly express dissatisfaction over having its human rights problems raised into an issue on the international level and China will dread having to deal with an increased number of North Korean defectors. But with U.S. President George W. Bush selecting improved human rights and expanding freedom as the top priorities of his diplomatic policies, his administration will certainly continue to push for the new plan.
As a result, the North Korean human rights issue will likely turn into a full-scale political issue, and our government must be prepared with a policy to deal with it. It will be impossible to break the deadlock by maintaining the current position, which takes a passive stance or tries to evade the problem in its entirety. We cannot deny that the American policy has the positive effect of improving human rights of North Korean defectors through the international system and procedure. Therefore, our government must make it clear that it will not disregard the issue.
We must keep a close eye on the situation to see if the U.S. policy leads to a mass exodus of North Koreans, since South Korea realistically is the only nation that can accept a large number of defectors. If there is a rush of refugees, while the United States accepts only hundreds of them, our burden will grow heavy. For that reason, we need a close consulation channel among Korea, China and the United States.