China Vows to Repatriate North Korean Refugees

Despite the protests by South Koreans, China plans to repatriate the North Koreans recently caught in Chinese territory. This announcement comes amid Kim Jong-un’s vow to punish three generations of family members of anyone who tries to leave North Korea. The Voice of America reports:

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry says the detained North Koreans are not refugees. He says they crossed the border into China illegally and for economic reasons.

South Korean human-rights activists gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul Monday, where they heard a moving appeal from Soh Kyung-suk, co-chairman of a group called Christian Social Responsibility.

“If you listen to the screams of our North Korean defector brothers, you cannot listen to them without tears welling in your eyes. Therefore, if we stay silent and do nothing while watching them being dragged to the execution ground, we are living inhumane lives.”

 As China is planning to send back the North Korean defectors, Seoul has announced that it will seek global support at the UN meeting next week. AFP adds:

But a spokeswoman said Seoul has repeatedly urged Beijing not to repatriate at least 10 North Koreans arrested in the northeastern city of Shenyang this month.

“Since our bilateral discussion (with China) is not working very well, we will make efforts to get international support via various channels including the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees),” she told AFP.

Seoul diplomats will address the broad issue of ensuring safety for North Korean refugees during a UNHCR meeting in Geneva next week, she said, but will not specifically target China for criticism.

The spokeswoman also confirmed a media report that 11 North Korean refugees have been trapped in South Korean consulates in Beijing and Shenyang for almost three years because China refuses to let them leave for the South.