Defectors to speak in Washington

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Defectors to speak in Washington


Kim Bong-hyun, Korea’s deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, gives a keynote speech at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday, in which he asked the international community to help stop the repatriation of North Korean defectors and abide by international refugee guidelines. [YONHAP]

Amid a mounting public outcry over China’s imminent repatriation of North Korean defectors to their communist homeland, a U.S. Congressional commission will convene an emergency hearing tomorrow where two defectors will talk about their experiences of being sent back to the North.

According to the Web site of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, two North Korean defectors, Han Song-hwa and Jo Jin-hye, who had previously been held in China and were repatriated, will give testimony about their repatriation.

Han is Jo’s mother, and after they were repatriated to the North they escaped again and now are living near Washington D.C.

The meeting is intended to raise public awareness on the issue worldwide and help secure the international community’s help in stopping China from hunting down defectors and returning them to its close ally.

“In January, Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, reportedly threatened to ‘exterminate three generations’ of any family with a member caught defecting from North Korea during the 100-day mourning period for the late Kim Jong-il,” the notice for the hearing read on the Web site.

“Despite its obligations under international law, the Chinese government maintains an agreement with North Korea to repatriate North Korean refugees.”

The commission said the hearing will be held from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Rayburn House Office Building and broadcast live on the commission’s Web site.

Two human rights activists will also deliver speeches at the hearing, the commission said: Roberta Cohen, chair of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and Suzanne Scholte, chair of the North Korea Freedom Coalition.

The U.S. Congress’s move came after the South Korean government appealed the issue to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday for the first time, and called on the international community to protect refugees who are at risk of being sent to their homelands where they would be punished or have their lives endangered.

On Monday evening, South Korean lawmakers urged the government and the international community to take action against China’s move.

By Kim Hee-jin []
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