9 acts of cowardiceOur government has covered us in shame. They have failed to protect nine defectors who had asked the Korean consulate in China to shelter them. Under the constitution of the Republic of Korea, defectors, and indeed all North Korean residents, are citizens of this country. Nine family members of a South Korean prisoner of war who had managed to escape North Korea to China were reportedly sent back to the North and imprisoned.
The government always gives the same cowardly excuse and has been doing so for a decade. It says it is difficult to bring defectors to South Korea because it does not want to provoke North Korea and disrupt diplomatic relations with China.
This policy was created when a large group of Korean defectors sought refuge at the German-run international school in Beijing. The Foreign Ministry told journalists that the Chinese government had agreed to cooperate, as long as the matter was not made public. And yet, the defectors, whose presence was not reported by the media, were handed back to the North by China. If the Foreign Ministry’s account of the affair is honest, then the Chinese government broke its agreement with South Korea.
It is time to change Seoul’s policy governing defectors. Soon, the number of defectors in South Korea will reach more than 10,000. The budget for the defectors is still about 20 billion won ($21 million) a year. The Ministry of Unification’s budget for this year is more than 1 trillion won. By spending just one tenth of that money, wouldn’t it be possible to increase the number of defectors brought to the South from China by 10 times? It may be better to bargain with North Korea and suggest we pay a certain amount for each defector and they can just give them to us.
The policy of reconciliation and cooperation dates back a decade, but the government has failed to resolve issues associated with defectors, kidnap victims, live POWs and separated families. How can it be so indifferent to its own people? How can it possibly ask for patriotism? Rumors of another inter-Korean summit are spreading. While talking to North Korea about aid, the government treats defectors like flotsam. That must be stopped. The hardships of defectors in China is a much more urgent matter than providing fertilizer and food aid to North Korea.
We have a proposal for the president. Please order your unification minister and foreign minister to pay more attention to the defector issue and file an official complaint with China.