Military prepares for flow of refugees from North

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Military prepares for flow of refugees from North

South Korea’s military has a plan in place to deal with a massive influx of North Koreans in the event of internal turmoil in the communist country by constructing refugee camps, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

The plan is part of comprehensive contingency measures drawn up by the South’s Defense Ministry to cope with consequences if an “instability situation” occurs in North Korea, said Representative Kim Ock-lee of the ruling Grand National Party, citing a report from the ministry.

“If a massive exodus of North Korean refugees takes place, a systemic countermeasure will be carried out under the control of government organizations,” the ministry said in the report submitted to the lawmaker.

“For a scenario where a large number of North Korean refugees flood toward the South, the military is preparing a plan to set up temporary camps to accommodate, protect and safely hand them over to government organizations.”

Without offering details, the ministry’s report also said it is ready for “all possible” contingencies in North Korea.

About 215,000 North Koreans would flee to the South by sea or land borders if there were instability in the North, the lawmaker said, citing estimates given by some scholars.

Since the 1950-53 Korean War, some 20,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea, mostly via China. They include 2,018 in 2006, 2,544 in 2007, 2,809 in 2008 and 2,927 in 2009, according to government data.

Officials at the Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report.

South Korean and U.S. officials have warned of possible instability as North Korea’s ailing leader Kim Jong-il is apparently taking steps to transfer his authority to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

The junior Kim, who is believed to be no older than 28, raised his profile Sunday by reviewing a massive military parade in Pyongyang with his 68-year-old father to mark the 65th anniversary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.

The reviewing of the parade by Kim Jong-un marked another important step forward to an ongoing father-to-son power transfer after he was appointed a four-star army general and given a key party post late last month.

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