Opposition party opts out of UN meeting on defectors

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Opposition party opts out of UN meeting on defectors

While some ruling and minor party lawmakers are preparing for a meeting at a UN organization to raise the issue of China’s forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors, no one in the major opposition party will join the crucial trip.

Following mounting global criticism against returning North Korean escapees arrested in Chinese territory to their homeland, two ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers - one Liberty Forward Party lawmaker and a former National Assembly Speaker - will soon depart for Geneva to attend a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on March 10.

The trip is part of efforts to rescue defectors at risk of being executed if they are returned to the communist country.

According to the parliament, a female defector named Kim Hye-suk, who escaped from the North three times and was previously imprisoned in the regime’s notorious labor camps, will also accompany them to inform the world of the brutal punishment that repatriated defectors likely face.

However, amid these increasing efforts, the major opposition Democratic United Party didn’t send any lawmakers or party members to the delegation, and no one in the party voluntarily applied for it.

The trip was initially proposed by Park Sun-young, the Liberty Forward Party lawmaker. A former parliamentary speaker officially promised to support the trip for all lawmakers from three parties - Saenuri, Democratic United, and the Liberty Forward.

“So far, the DUP members haven’t expressed intentions to join us,” Park said. “Some lawmakers made encouraging phone calls to me, but they told me ‘it would be difficult’ for them to make such a trip.”

According to Park, Hwang Woo-yea, floor leader of the ruling party, sent fax messages to a group of DUP lawmakers who are also members of an association of Asian politicians advocating for human rights to notify them of the trip. However, the lawmakers said they haven’t received any messages.

“We are keeping the previous announcement of our party leadership that was made last week,” a DUP official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

The LFP’s Park also said, “Two Canadian lawmakers have recently issued statements protesting the Chinese government last month, ahead of the U.S. Congress’s hearing. The only people who are too busy with their own personal purposes are those in our legislature.”

By Lee Won-jean, Yang Won-bo [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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