Parties mull over hearing on defectors held in China

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Parties mull over hearing on defectors held in China

Representative Park Sun-young, of the conservative minority Liberty Forward Party, and Hwang Woo-yea, Saenuri Party floor leader, have agreed to hold a hearing on North Korean defectors being held in China.

If conducted successfully, it will be the first such hearing in South Korea.

The two representatives on Saturday came to an agreement on the hearing while Hwang was visiting Park at Seoul National University Hospital.

Park was hospitalized after collapsing during an 11-day hunger strike in front of the Chinese Embassy calling for the release of North Korean defectors.

When Park suggested the hearing, Hwang responded positively by saying that “the ruling and the opposition parties should co-host a month-long hearing by establishing a special committee.”

However, as other opposition parties have different opinions, it is uncertain whether the first hearing on the North Korean defectors will be held.

“I talked about the hearing with the Democratic United Party floor leader Kim Jin-pyo on Saturday but he responded that it is difficult to see it happening,” said Hwang. “However, I will continue to try to persuade him.”

A source from the largest opposition Democratic United Party told the JoongAng Ilbo that it did not receive an official request from the Saenuri Party.

The source added that the party’s official position on the issue, as spoken by Park Jie-won, a member of the DUP Supreme Council, is that “China is obliged to protect North Korean defectors by considering them as refugees and act according to the International Refugee Agreement.”

The source also criticized the Lee Myung-bak administration’s “poor” diplomatic relations with China, insisting that the “government must strengthen the relationship between South Korea and China so that no more North Korean defectors suffer from being repatriated to the North.”

The Unified Progressive Party also responded negatively yesterday, saying that the party hasn’t yet received any suggestions or requests from the ruling party.

However, a source from the UPP told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that the “move to hold a hearing on the North Korean defector issue is seen as being politically motivated, as the Saenuri Party is neglecting to publicize its position on administrative corruption concerning the party.”

Kim Yong-hwa, head of the North Korea Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea, who first spoke to the government about North Korean defectors in China in January, criticized the parties for a lack of unity on the issue.

“China is responding coldly to South Korea’s request, as they are aware that the defector issue will soon subside because the ruling and opposition parties in South Korea will not unite easily,” said Kim.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress will hold an emergency hearing on March 5 on China’s repatriation of North Korean defectors to their communist homeland.

Two defectors, Han Song-hwa and Jo Jin-hye, who had previously been held in China and were repatriated, will talk about their experiences of being sent back to the North.

Prior to the hearing, the commission will issue a statement blasting China’s deportation of defectors.

By Yim Seung-hye, Yang Won-bo []
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