[Letters] Defector issue must be handled by both Koreas

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[Letters] Defector issue must be handled by both Koreas

I’d like to comment on your Feb. 25 editorial “Defectors’ safety comes first.”

Firstly, I have all the sympathies for these poor North Korean defectors and I oppose repatriating them back to North Korea. That being said, South Korea has no one to blame but itself as it lacks the sincerity and political will to solve this issue. South Koreans have been extremely hypocritical; on the one hand they lament that the Chinese are not doing enough to protect these “citizens of Daehanminguk,” yet on the other hand they are telling the Chinese that the hundreds of thousands of defectors hiding in China are “not our problem.”

China’s hands are tied. China can’t simply make a sweeping change to grant defectors refugee status; to do so would be detrimental to its national interest. It would enrage the North Koreans tremendously, and China risks its northeastern provinces being overrun by defectors swarming across the border.

South Korea needs to take the lead and show willingness to accept not just a few but all of the North Korean defectors in China, Mongolia, Thailand and elsewhere. The South Korean government should work with China to round up, register and transport all of the presumed 30,000 to 300,000 North Korean defectors who wish to go to South Korea.

Furthermore, a deal could be made between South Korea and China; South Korea could establish a North Korean refugee registration and assistance center somewhere in China to make sure that all future refugees who enter China will be sent to the South. Separately, a deal could be made for North Korea to turn a blind eye to it and in exchange, China and South Korea would promise more aid (especially rice and fertilizer) to the North. Voila! Problem solved!

Of course, this solution is not without its problems. First and foremost, is South Korea willing to suddenly accept 30,000 to 300,000 more defectors into their country? If not, then it just highlights the hypocritical nature of the South Korean government and some human rights organizations on the defector issue. Many South Koreans talk the talk but do not appear ready to walk the walk. Secondly, to grant such sweeping amnesty to defectors in China might encourage potential defectors to venture into China. Third, what can China and North Korea do to beef up border security? The Sino-North Korean border is long and porous.

Ultimately, the defector issue must be worked out between the two Koreas. If the South truly cares about these people (which I highly doubt), it needs to show the brotherly love it allegedly has and be more accepting. South Korea cannot just condemn China while offering no systematic solution whatsoever to the defector problem.

by JucheCM, Beijing
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