AAK! PSA: Stop China's Repatriation of North Koreans

First, a little bit of background. As Kim Jong-Un attempts to consolidate his power in North Korea, one of the new regime's focus has been arresting as many North Koreans in China as possible. Right now, North Korea has sent into China a task force of covert agents numbering in the thousands -- a scale simply unprecedented -- who would pretend to be North Korean defectors, only to rat out true defectors to the Chinese police. The Chinese police arrests these defectors and repatriate them back to North Korea. Once back in North Korea, these defectors will face near certain deaths in gulags out of hard labor and starvation. Recently, there was an arrest of 28 North Korean defectors in China, who will be repatriated back to North Korea in just a few days. Right now, even as we speak, these defectors are essentially facing a death penalty if they are sent back to North Korea. Some of the defectors' families in South Korea (who defected before this group of defectors) are pleading that if these defectors are to be sent back to North Korea, they are better off killing themselves in the Chinese prison.

Mr. Joo Seong-Ha, whom regular readers of this blog would know well, decided to do something about this situation. Below is his plea regarding this issue, translated into English. Mr. Joo is hoping that the social services networks worldwide would be plastered with this message, so that the Chinese government would hopefully think twice before condemning North Korean defectors to certain death.

The Korean knows that a lot of AAK! readers came to this blog because of the peerless insight of Mr. Joo. If you learned anything new about North Korea thanks to one of his posts, you owe him -- and now is your chance to return the favor. It will not take much to put up this message on Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, or any other social network to which you belong. Please, please carry this message forward. You may end up saving lives. Thank you.

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Our appeal to the Chinese government and the international community for help. Please stop the repatriation of North Korean defectors! Forced repatriation is ultimately a death sentence.

Please help save the lives of North Korean defectors who are about to be repatriated by The Public Security Bureau of China. The defectors including minors are crying out for help, saying they’d rather die in China than be repatriated. Please help us stop the inhumane repatriation by the Chinese government. Compulsory repatriation will only result in cruel torture, persecution, and public execution. We ask the Chinese government and the global community to help in our effort to protect the human rights and save the lives of the innocent.

From February 8th to the 13th, 28 North Korean defectors were arrested by the Public Security Bureau agents in three cities near the Chinese border. The first group had 10 people (4 men and 6 women) arrested in Shenyang, the second group consisted of 9 people arrested in Yian-ji, and the third group had 12 people arrested in Changchun. Reportedly, the 10 people detained in Shenyang contacted with their family in South Korea by the phone.

The refugees escaped from North Korea for many different reasons. They had to suffer extended period of financial crisis, wide-spread starvation, electric power shortage, ‘guilt-by-association’ political system, absence of freedom of speech, travel or relocation, and violence against women and children. Some refugees escaped from the prison camps, while others left their country to meet with their families who had settled in South Korea. Most of the refugees want to come to South Korea but a few of them want to start a new life in other countries like the United States, the U.K. and Canada.

The arrested defectors will go through 7 to 10 days of investigation before their repatriation. Therefore, the 10 people arrested in Shenyang are now facing immediate deportation. For a decade, the Chinese Bureau of Public Security has postponed the repatriation until the international community diverts their attention to other issues, and has so far repatriated over 10,000 refugees. The Chinese government is now evading negotiation on this matter with ambiguous answers, saying they cannot confirm the arrest of 28 North Koreans.

Recently, the North Korean government ordered a harsher crackdown on escapees during the 100 days of mourning period for Kim Jong-Il. After repatriation, the defectors will be sent to political prisoner camps and their chances of public execution are imminent. In the prison camp, their human rights of will be cruelly abused as they are subject to forced labor, involuntary abortion, physical violence, sexual assault, public execution, torture, medical experiment and lack of hygienic care. Even though North Korea joined the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and inserted additional ‘respects and protections of human rights’ article into the constitution, it has never followed or adhered to any of the rules.

Most of the refugees want to come to South Korea, and many of them have families already residing in South Korea. For instance, one of the refugees under arrest is a teenager boy who does not have any family or relatives in North Korea but has a brother and a sister in South Korea. In this case, he is a full citizen of South Korea and the South Korean government has the right to ask the Chinese government to send him to South Korea.

Kim Jong-un and his government must admit the sovereign default and the abuse of human rights of its citizens. As a leader, Kim should help promote the well-being of his citizens rather than promote the death of his people.

North Korean defectors left their country due to poverty, autocracy, and many other political reasons. So, their escape from North Korea and their desire to settle in South Korea prove that they qualify for the status of refugee or asylum seeker prescribed by the international law. The Chinese government agreed to the UN’s Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the UN Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK stipulates ‘the principle of non-refoulement’ that the North Korean defectors seeking asylum should not be put back to dangerous situation. Therefore, the Chinese government must stop the forced repatriation and allow the refugees to continue their lives in other countries.

In an effort to show their opposition to North Korea, the families of the arrested refugees are abstaining from food and drinks, and appealing to the Chinese government while also trying to reach out to the international community. In one extreme case, a father of an arrested female refugee stated that he would rather have his own daughter killed by poison than taken back to North Korea. Her repatriation will only lead to indefinite torture eventually ending with public execution. 

We urge the Chinese government to protect the basic human rights and the lives of all human beings. Also, we encourage the Chinese government to understand and realize the importance of freedom and democracy for all people. Repatriation will cause long and painful suffering to the family members of the refugees. Tens of thousands of people in North and South are already feeling guilty as they failed to save their family. Please help us stop this pain and injustice. 

We appeal to all the people of conscience around the world, including worldwide news media, governments, leaders, and organizations. Please raise public awareness of the North Korean refugee crisis and the devastating effect of the Chinese government’s unjust repatriation. Please help save the lives of North Korean defectors. Show your love for humanity!

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.