Korea asks UN to protect repatriated defectors

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Korea asks UN to protect repatriated defectors

As international and domestic human rights activists raise alarm regarding the safety of the repatriated young North Korean defectors who were en route to Seoul via Laos, the Korean government said yesterday it requested the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva oversee humane treatment of the nine youths.

A senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement to the council, which opened its 23rd session last month and runs until June 14, requested reform of North Korea’s human rights, with the cooperation of the Commission of Inquiry, formed by the Human Rights Council to investigate Pyongyang’s human rights violations.

Korea made an appeal for the international community to “protect defectors fleeing the suppressive conditions in North Korea,” according to ministry sources.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized the principle of non-refoulement, a cornerstone of asylum and refugee law banning forceful return of refugees to the country in which they were or might further be persecuted.

A senior foreign affairs official stated that the ministry’s delegation requested to the council, “North Korea guarantees the life and safety of the nine defectors that were repatriated to the North recently and that they are not punished or treated unjustly.”

Nine defectors, seven males and two females in their teens and early 20s fleeing from starvation in North Korea, were stopped in Laos on their way to South Korea and deported to China on May 27 then back to North Korea, where they may face harsh punishment.

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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