56 defectors slaughtered in ’03: Boxun

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56 defectors slaughtered in ’03: Boxun

North Korea fatally shot dozens of its people trying to cross the river into China on a single day nine years ago, a U.S.-based Chinese media outlet reported, quoting a Chinese government document.

This raises the possibility that the North’s brutal border control of the past six months, particularly after the death of former leader Kim Jong-il, had precedents in the past.

A South Korea-based human rights group claimed earlier that the North issued a “kill first, report later” order last November to border security agents on how to deal with people caught crossing the border without permission.

In a Chinese-language article posted on its Web site yesterday Korea time, Boxun News said it gained possession of a chilling Chinese police report written in 2003. The report, it said, was drafted by the Badaogou Police Precinct in Changbai Korean Autonomous County in Northeastern province of Jilin, which borders Hyesan, a city in the North’s Ryanggang Province.

According to the document, a police officer at the precinct was alerted by residents that numerous corpses were floating down the Yalu River in China at 7 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2003. A police team retrieved 53 bodies within three hours. Three more bodies were recovered at 5 a.m. the following day. Of the corpses, 36 were men and 20 women. Seven were children, including two girls.

The report said that police determined from the corpses’ personal effects that the victims were all North Korea residents. All of the bodies had gunshot wounds, and the police assumed they were shot to death by North Korean border forces while trying to escape into China.

The report said the bodies were cremated with the approval of the Chinese municipal government. Their remains and belongings were kept in storage, awaiting an order from “the top” as to how they should be dealt with, the report said.

An allegation of a mass killing of North Koreans in 2003 based on a Chinese police report was raised a few years ago, but this was the first time a Chinese media outlet reported the case. Boxun News, based in North Carolina, was created by a Chinese engineer in the U.S. in 2004. The paper gained renown earlier this year with a scoop about Wang Lijun, a top police officer in Chongqing, briefly seeking asylum at a U.S. consulate, which triggered the fall of Bo Xilai and the biggest leadership crisis in China in decades. Boxun didn’t disclose how it got the document.
By Choi Hyung-kyu, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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