China’s cal­lous han­dling of North Korean de­fec­tors

Rou­tine repa­tri­a­tion is of­ten a death sen­tence

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Yearn Hong Choi THAI­LAND NORTH KOREA

As a res­i­dent of Washington, I re­ceive a never-end­ing stream of sad sto­ries from the China-north Korea bor­der. This time, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has an­nounced it is plan­ning to send 33 North Korean de­fec­tors who were de­tained in Fe­bru­ary back to North Korea. Many of the de­fec­tors crossed the bor­der for food and free­dom, ul­ti­mately seek­ing po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in South Korea. China de­clared that they were not seek­ing po­lit­i­cal free­dom, but sim­ply food. Since they were not con­sid­ered po­lit­i­cal refugees or de­fec­tors, China de­clared it was jus­ti­fied in its decision to repa­tri­ate them to North Korea. Once repa­tri­ated, it is likely a kan­ga­roo court will sen­tence them to life in prison or ex­e­cu­tion.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment does not con­sider the con­se­quence of repa­tri­a­tion. The Tu­men River forms the China-north Korea bor­der. It is not deep and ex­pan­sive ex­cept dur­ing the sum­mer flood sea­son. Many North Kore­ans at­tempt to make their way to South Korea if they can first reach Thai­land. First they cross the Tu­men into China, then travel through the trop­i­cal jun­gle to the China-laos bor­der, then cross into Viet­nam and ford the Mekong River to reach Thai­land, where they hope to find asy­lum. Each bor­der is guarded by bor­der pa­trol sol­diers and po­lice forces in uni­form and civil­ian clothes. Need­less to say, the most dan­ger­ous bor­der is the China-north Korea bor­der. Now, 33 men and women who failed to es­cape de­tec­tion have been ar­rested and will be forcibly repa­tri­ated to North Korea.

The world has wit­nessed dra­matic scenes of Chi­nese po­lice and se­cu­rity forces ar­rest­ing North Korean de­fec­tors who try to en­ter for­eign em­bassies in Bei­jing for po­lit­i­cal asy­lum. Some de­fec­tors are now re­sort­ing to risky travel through the stormy Yel­low Sea to reach South Korea.

China and North Korea, the two neigh­bor­ing na­tions, are not friendly to those who seek food and free­dom. The North Korean regime con­sid­ers those who seek to es­cape to Manchuria as traitors to the moth­er­land, and the Chi­nese bor­der se­cu­rity forces al­ways at­tempt to find, ar­rest, in­ter­ro­gate and fi­nally repa­tri­ate them to North Korea. That those flee­ing are driven by hunger wins no sym­pa­thy from the Chi­nese.

Some­times, de­fec­tors at­tempt to buy their free­dom by brib­ing North Korean pa­trol sol­diers and Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties. But this is no “Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble” ad­ven­ture story. There is the dan­ger of be­ing caught by the North Korean or Chi­nese agents and shot at any mo­ment. Many have failed in cross­ing the Tu­men River, and many have been ar­rested in Manchurian hide­outs. If they are lucky enough to make it to Thai­land, they re­ceive po­lit­i­cal asy­lum and per­ma­nent set­tle­ment in South Korea. There, they are ac­cepted as fel­low cit­i­zens af­ter a short pe­riod of train­ing and read­just­ment, and they re­ceive the funds to start new lives.

There is no such a thing as hu­man rights in North Korea. There is no due process or de­fense lawyers. Bro­kers from North Korea and China have net­works for the sale of North Korean women, young and old, with vary­ing price tags. Young women in their 20s are sold for $5,000 while older women in their 30s are sold for $3,000. Traf­fick­ing in per­sons is a se­ri­ous crime against hu­man­ity.

South Kore­ans are sym­pa­thetic to North Korean de­fec­tors. Park Sun-young, a South Korean con­gress­woman, has staged a hunger strike in front of the Chi­nese Em­bassy in Seoul. She rep­re­sents South Korean peo­ple who are protest­ing the Chi­nese decision to repa­tri­ate North Korean de­fec­tors. As a re­sult, China is de­lay­ing repa­tri­a­tion of the 33, wait­ing for the “proper” time. There are 28,000 North Korean de­fec­tors who have set­tled in South Korea. They rep­re­sent a po­lit­i­cal force, lead­ing protest move­ments against China’s in­tent to repa­tri­ate friends and rel­a­tives who risk their lives for food and free­dom.

North Korean refugees should be pro­tected by the United Na­tions Char­ter. Peo­ple of con­science must con­vince China to send de­fec­tors to South Korea or else­where in the free world.

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