Protestors swarm Chinese Embassy
Representative Park Sun-young of the Liberty Forward Party has staged a hunger protest for seven days in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul. She demanded the South Korean government take more aggressive action to stop Beijing from sending back the defectors to their communist homeland, stressing they will face execution after repatriation.
“On Feb. 24, three high-ranking North Korean officials visited China,” Park said yesterday. “They asked for the quick repatriation of the defectors, promising that they won’t be treated as criminals. The South Korean government should immediately take steps to stop the North Korean officials from meeting with the defectors and taking them back to the North.”
A group of foreign refugees in Korea, including those from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar, also held a rally in front of the Chinese Embassy alongside Park to pressure Beijing.
Testimonies of North Korean defectors who had been previously caught by Chinese policemen and detained in a prison in Tumen, a China-North border city, showed the brutal reality that the defectors face.
Choe Ju-hyeok, a 25-year-old defector currently in the South, told the JoongAng Ilbo that he was in the Tumen prison for three months in 2002.
Choe said he was detained in the prison with 17 other defectors who also attempted to defect to the South but were arrested by Chinese security guards. He recalled that defectors in the prison cried every night and trembled for fear of execution.
“North Korea’s open execution is carried out by firing about eight shots starting from the head,” Choe said. “But we still risk our lives because it’s better than living in the North.”
Ryu Seon-ja, a 47-year-old defector who successfully arrived in the South in 2005 after three failed attempts, said she was also detained in the Tumen prison.
“They normally wait to have 100 defectors in the prison before sending them to the North,” she said. “We must stop them from being sent back to the North.”
By Kim Hee-jin, Lee Won-jean [email@example.com]