South Koreans in harm’s way

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South Koreans in harm’s way

A number of South Korean missionaries and human rights activists helping North Koreans near the Chinese border with the North have been attacked or killed, raising serious concerns about terrorism by North Korean spies. Authorities have raised the safety alarm for South Korean citizens who are active in China’s northeastern region.

The exact cause of last month’s killing and attack on South Korean citizens in Dandong and Yenji across the Yalu River remains unclear. But the likelihood of terrorism attacks is high, given that the attacks were by stabbing with a syringe and poisoning.

North Koreans are suspected to be behind the crimes since the victims were engaged in missionary work and human rights activities that are despised by the secluded, despotic regime. North Korea vehemently abhors missionaries and human rights activists and threatens to detain them if they dare cross the border.

Despite suspicion and concerns, Chinese authorities may never solve the cases or pinpoint any suspects. The Chinese police are treating the case of the South Korean missionary who died in a hospital from poisoning in Dandong as a suicide. There is no trace of the suspect who stabbed a South Korean with a syringe in Yenji. The victim is being treated in a hospital for poisoning. The attacker of Park Byong-hyun, head of a Kia Motors training center, who died in 1996 from stabbing by a poisoned needle, has never been caught.

There is no exact figure on the number of South Korean missionaries residing in China’s northeastern border area across from North Korea. Since missionary activities are illegal in China, no South Koreans report themselves as missionaries when they enter China.

But many members of South Korean churches and Christian groups as well as human rights aid agencies are known to be active in cities near the border to give a helping hand to North Korean refugees and defectors.

They are all potentially under the threat of such mysterious random attacks. Authorities must seek cooperation with Chinese counterparts to investigate the cases and reinforce efforts to ensure the safety of South Korean citizens working in the area.
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