Plan to repatriate North defectors draws protests

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Plan to repatriate North defectors draws protests

South Korean lawmakers yesterday pressed China to halt an alleged plan to repatriate dozens of North Koreans allegedly detained in a massive crackdown, while urging the South Korean government to beef up efforts to bring them to the South.

Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it will send a diplomat to China to help resolve the case.

The legislature’s move followed a claim by a Seoul-based civic group on Sunday that 35 defectors from the North were rounded up in several Chinese cities at the end of last month and are expected to be forcibly sent back to the North this month.

“The forced repatriation is in violation of the United Nations refugee convention, of which China is a member,” the ruling Grand National Party floor leader Hwang Woo-yea said at an emergency government-ruling party meeting.

“According to the convention, if a person is deemed at risk of receiving heavy punishment for political or religious views after being forcibly repatriated, the person should be treated as a refugee or semirefugee and should be protected,” Hwang said.

An “emergency statement” issued on Sunday by the Commission to Help North Korean Refugees, a Christian NGO, said that 35 North Koreans had been arrested in China in previous days, including 20 in Shenyang on Sept. 27, 10 in Weihai on Sept. 27 and five in Yanji on Sept. 29-30. The group said the defectors could be repatriated to the North early this month, facing the risk of political persecution.

Hwang said the party, jointly with the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights, would send a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging the immediate release of the 35 people.

The coalition, founded in 2003 to address North Korean human rights issues, has about 120 lawmakers from around 60 countries as members.

Hwang also urged the government to muster every resource available to “rescue 35 Koreans.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-hwan said at the meeting that the government confirmed that two of the defectors hold South Korean passports but has yet to confirm whether there are any teenagers or elderly people in the group.

“We contacted Chinese authorities through the Korean Embassy in China and are requesting that they not be repatriated to the North,” Kim said at the meeting. “We haven’t had an official response from the Chinese side, but we will continuously request it. We are taking this situation gravely.”

Park Sun-young, a lawmaker of the Liberty Forward Party, and 25 other lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties submitted a resolution to the National Assembly on Tuesday urging China to halt its repatriation plan.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon raised concerns over human rights in the North in a report recently submitted to the UN General Assembly, Voice of America reported yesterday.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [머니투데이]

정부, 中당국에 탈북자 35명 송환 중단 요구

외교통상부는 6일 최근 탈북자 35명이 중국에서 체포된 것과 관련, 이들의 강제 송환을 막기 위해 중국으로 실무진을 급파했다고밝혔다.

앞서 정부와 한나라당은 5일 긴급당정회의를 열고탈북자 강제북송 금지 원칙을 재확인했다.

김성환 외교통상부장관은 이날 국회 외교통상통일위원회 국정감사에서 "우리 국적인 탈북자가 2명이고, 노인과 청소년이 포함됐는지 확인하고 있다"며 "중국측에 강제 송환을 중단할 것을 요청할 것"이라고 말했다.


이에따라 허승재 외교부 동북아3과장과 관련 실무진은 중국 선양(瀋陽) 등에서 탈북자들이 처한 상황을 파악하고 직접 중국 정부측에강제 송환중단을 요청할 계획이다.

앞서 기독교계 북한인권단체인 탈북난민보호운동본부(CNKR)는 지난 2일 성명서를 통해 지난달 27일 중국 선양과 웨이하이(威海)에서 중국 공안당국에 의해 탈북자가 각각 20명과 10명이 체포되고, 29일과 30일엔 옌지(延吉)에서 5명이 체포된 것으로 확인됐다고 밝혔다. 이중 2명은 한국 국적자인 것으로 알려졌다.

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