Let a legislative probe beginThe suspicion that the Moon Jae-in administration repatriated two North Koreans against their will is deepening. If that is true, that constitutes a violation of our Constitution and the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which South Korea signed in 1985. Seoul’s decision also raises fundamental questions about the liberal administration championing human rights.
First of all, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul may have lied when he answered questions from lawmakers in the National Assembly last Friday. “North Koreans expressed an intention to return even if they die,” he said. But a senior official from the Ministry of Unification said the two North Koreans specified their intent to defect. Our military authorities also reported that they consistently sailed toward the southern maritime border on the East Sea after defying our Navy’s operation to push them upwards.
Our Constitution defines North Koreans as our nationals even if they reside in North Korea. If the two North Koreans really expressed the will to defect, they deserve protection from our government. Even if they committed murder on a fishing boat, our government has an obligation to take action after investigating the case and putting them on trial.
The international community expressed serious concerns about the government’s decision to return them. Tomás Quintana, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, considers the idea of taking follow-up steps after contacting concerned parties whereas the Human Rights Watch issued a statement denouncing the government’s decision to return the two North Koreans. Foreign missions in Seoul also criticized the government for infringing on their human rights. The Blue House has raised controversy after refusing a proposed meeting between President Moon and the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died six days after his return to the United States after 17 months of detention in North Korea.
The mysterious repatriation was exposed after text messages sent by a senior officer in the Joint Security Area to a deputy National Security Director were captured by a press camera. Why did the Blue House so hastily send the two North Koreans back even when the Unification Ministry and the National Intelligence Service were reluctant to do so? The National Assembly must get to the bottom of the case by holding a hearing.