Opposition must change course

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Opposition must change course

The public outcry against China’s forcible repatriation of North Korean defectors is spreading quickly at home and abroad. The U.S. Congress exposed at a hearing Monday the miserable fate - extreme torture and execution - of those who are sent back to the North. Chinese intellectuals are posting messages about it on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and one opinion poll showed that 75 percent of Chinese people oppose the government’s forcible repatriation of defectors.

In Korea, too, civilians have launched a campaign to protest the repatriation. A group of singers and TV celebrities staged a concert titled “Cry with Us” on Sunday to urge Beijing to stop the repatriation immediately. The concert followed a hunger strike by a reporter-turned-lawmaker from the conservative Liberty Forward Party.

Yet the opposition camp - and more specifically, the main opposition Democratic United Party and the Unified Progressive Party - still refuse to make public their positions on the issue. The National Assembly has even had trouble organizing a delegation to a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva because no legislators from the opposition parties want to participate.

The parties are reluctant to become involved because of their blind worship of the “sunshine policy” toward the North. They also don’t want to invite a potential obstacle to an expansion of exchanges in the future. But the defector issue has reached a critical phase that demands a fundamental solution.

The inhumane treatment that repatriated defectors face cannot be avoided, even if the DUP chooses not to acknowledge it. The unfathomable pain defectors must suffer has steadily been exposed through their testimony, movies and reports. Many Western countries and international organizations are also paying attention to the issue and calling for active engagement by all parties involved.

The controversy over Beijing’s repatriation scheme was spurred on by our government’s change of direction - from a “quiet” to an “open” policy. Some pundits argue that aid to North Korea is the only answer to the issue. It could contribute to eliminating the root cause of the conundrum. But our leftist forces know well that such an approach cannot solve the problem, given the recalcitrant nature of the regime in Pyongyang. The horrible plight of those repatriated is an emergency situation that surpasses ideology. The DUP and other opposition parties must stop standing on the sidelines.
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