South Korean Government Must Employ All Diplomatic Means Necessary to Ensure Safety of 9 North Korean Refugees in Danger of Forced Repatriation
May 29, 2013
NKnet released the following statement on May 29. Translation courtesy of NKnet intern David Kim.
The South Korean government must take all the diplomatic steps it can to guarantee the safety of the nine refugees who were deported to China on May 27. These refugees face almost certain repatriation to North Korea.
In the face of increasing Chinese surveillance, two South Koreans helped the nine refugees leave China and enter Laos. These refugees are all extremely young; the youngest of them is 14 and the oldest is 23.
The nine refugees were arrested on May 10, 2013, and requested that they be taken to the South Korean embassy in Laos. However, they were sent to the immigration detention center in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
After their arrest, one of the South Koreans who had assisted the refugees immediately appealed to the South Korean embassy to take urgent action in order to prevent any type of persecution. In addition, a human rights organization called the South Korean consulate about the arrest the next day (May 11) and sent in an official request on May 16 for the refugees to be protected. However, the South Korean embassy did not take action and told the North Korean refugees to simply “wait.” The embassy failed to meet with the refugees even once during the 17 days before they were deported to China.
The South Korean government said North Korean officials met with the refugees on two occasions at the immigration detention center, once on May 20 and on the 24th. On the 27th, the North Koreans took the youth refugees back to China – what on earth was the South Korean government doing before then?
The detained refuges had numerous opportunities to escape imprisonment but trusting in the advice that the South Korean embassy gave to simply “wait,” the refugees refrained from taking action and were ultimately deported.
We condemn the idleness of the South Korean government and the negligence shown towards the refugees. The government miscalculated the gravity of the situation which resulted in deportation of the refugees to China. Once the North Korean government discerns the refugees hoped to go to South Korea and were traveling with religious persons, they will be persecuted severely.
The South Korean government must take the following actions to prevent the repatriation and probable persecution of these nine refugees:
1. The South Korean government must use all the diplomatic tools in its arsenal to ensure the safety and well-being of the nine refugees and prevent their forced repatriation.
2. A thorough investigation into the actions of the South Korean embassy in Laos must be conducted to seek the cause of its negligence in the refugee situation and the person in charge must be held accountable for his or her actions.
3. President Park Geun Hye, despite her knowledge of the refugee situation in Laos, must condemn the idleness of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs which neglected to act in this situation.
4. The South Korean government must make an effort to react with more speed and effectiveness in providing protective measures for refugees in other countries to prevent incidents like this in the future.