North tries to flip repatriation issue

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North tries to flip repatriation issue

As the South Korean government stepped up its condemnation of the forceful repatriation of nine young defectors back to North Korea, Pyongyang made its first official statement on the issue, saying Seoul had instead attempted to abduct the defectors from the North.

Eight days since the defectors were returned to Pyongyang, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency broadcast a statement late Wednesday saying the South Korean government “has recently attempted to lure and abduct many of our youths from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [or North Korea].”

A spokesman for North Korea’s Red Cross stated that South Korea sent “human traffickers under the guise of proponents of religion” to kidnap and secretly detain the youths, and “commit all sorts of acts of evil on them” including “forcing them to recite the Bible” and beating them if they refused. Seoul should “apologize for the criminal acts,” the spokesman added.

The South’s Ministry of Unification responded yesterday that it “regrets North Korea’s groundless accusations” and that it “requests for the safety of the defector youths who were forcefully repatriated” to the North.

A missionary couple led nine North Koreans aged between 15 and 23, mainly orphans fleeing starvation in the North, from China to Laos where they were caught and detained before being deported to China on May 27. Despite protests from the South Korean government and human rights activists, they were sent back to Pyongyang the following day.

Regarding the nine defectors, the North Korean spokesman stated that they were “currently seeking security and under government protection [so they] will be able to pursue their hopes and future dreams.”

The South Korean government on Wednesday requested the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council to ensure the safety of these North Korean defectors and protect them from unjust punishment in their country and for Pyongyang to cooperate.


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

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