[Letters] Protect North Korean refugees in China

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[Letters] Protect North Korean refugees in China

South Korea must exercise its right of diplomatic protection immediately in order to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees in China.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have been forced to escape to China to survive. One hundred percent of these North Koreans are refugees as defined by international law due to the fact that the North criminalizes and savagely punishes immigration from the country.

Refugees, once caught and forcibly returned to North Korea, suffer inhumane torture, imprisonment in concentration camps and are even executed according to the whim of North Korean authorities. In clear violation of the UN Genocide Convention, the babies of repatriated pregnant North Korean women have been summarily killed through brutal forced abortions and infanticide for being part Chinese.

China, in flagrant contravention of its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention; its 1967 Protocol and the UN Convention against Torture, has systematically denied the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees access to the vulnerable North Korean refugee population and continues to hunt down and forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees in Chinese territory. China refouls over 5,000 North Korean refugees every year; tens of thousands of innocent North Koreans have been killed and innumerable families torn apart as a direct consequence of China’s inhumane, illegal and unjustifiable policy towards the North Korean refugees.

Sixty to 70 percent of the North Korean refugees in China are women, 70 to 80 percent of whom have become victims of sex trafficking and horrific abuse. Many North Korean women have been forced into sexual slavery and are enduring unspeakable crimes in China today. Their children conceived through rape are considered stateless in China and are also exposed to abuse, sex-trafficking and abandonment. Additionally, innumerable North Korean children who escaped from North Korea with their parents have become orphans because one or both of their parents were found by Chinese officials and forcibly repatriated. These children also usually end up homeless or become victims of exploitation.

Tens of thousands of Korean women, children and all other North Korean refugees in China have been failed by the international community and are desperately awaiting a decisive intervention by the political leadership of South Korea.

According to South Korea’s constitution and national law, North Korean refugees are full citizens of the Republic of Korea and thus it is the inescapable responsibility of the South Korean government to intercede forcefully with Beijing on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees in China, and successfully bring their citizens to safety.

Although China may resist the contention that North Korean refugees are solely citizens of the South, they will accept the premise that the refugees possess dual citizenship, not because of international principles or the fact that China is a party to international conventions that obligate it to, but in the interest of maintaining friendly relations with the South, one of its main trading partners.

It is now incumbent upon both the political left and the right of the South Korean government (which purports to be concerned for the human rights and welfare of their people) to intervene in China and effectively bring home their citizens who are being victimized and exploited in the most bestial, barbaric and inhumane manner.

Robert Park, a Korean-American missionary and human rights activist

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.
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