≡ Menu

China sent back North Korean defectors

Terrible news. Dong-A Ilbo reports that China, in a clear violation of international law, sent back all 31 North Korean defectors to North Korea. According to sources, North Korea had been arresting and interrogating the defectors’ families even before this repatriation — presumably because China relayed to North Korea the identity of these defectors. Even the families of those who helped these defectors escape out of North Korea are being arrested and interrogated.

The families of those 31 who are in South Korea are wrecked with grief and guilt. One 45-year-old woman met her 70-year-old mother in China for exactly two days before leading her mother to the group in the hopes that her mother would be able to come to South Korea. One high school-aged boy, whose mother died while escaping from North Korea, had a younger sister in that group of 31 that was sent back to North Korea.

This repatriation by China is an unusually aggressive move. So far, when North Korea defectors were arrested in China, the Chinese police would hold the defectors for as long as 6 months before sending them back to North Korea so as to wait for the public reaction to quiet down. This time, however, China repatriated these defectors at the height of the international furor at the issue. (president Lee Myeong-Bak formally requested China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to repatriate these defectors only a week ago.) Significantly, according to sources within the Chinese police, these defectors were not even listed on the usual database, kept by the Chinese police, of North Korean defectors who were sent back to North Korea. This indicates that North Korean Security Bureau [보위부] came to China to directly take these defectors back.

The fight is not over. There are still more lives to be saved — approximately 300 North Korean defectors who are being held in a Chinese prison as of now. Among them is a mother with a baby who is less than a month old.

  • cm

    It’s reported that mother of the baby is very sick on the throes of death, but they’re going to send her back anyway. North Korean defectors also say the Chinese have planted spies amongst the North Korean defectors to weed out and confuse.

    But the world just turns as if nothing happens. More South Koreans have to stand up and speak up and let the world know what’s happening. This is another Rwanda style genocide going on right in the Korean backyard, but hardly anybody in the world knows about it. It’s unacceptable that all the world focus is only on the Tibetans.

    Hey, my compliments to you regarding this topic post.

  • http://vmphotography.com.au hoju_saram

    It’s unacceptable that all the world focus is only on the Tibetans.

    Or Kony.

    Condolences to the families of the dead 31, and to the ROK, which has to suffer living next to China and the DPRK.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Hey, my compliments to you regarding this topic post.

    Thanks. I wanted to post more on this when the issue was really hot and heavy, but somehow MH had a technical problem back then.

    Condolences to the families of the dead 31 . . .

    Well, they are not dead yet. There is a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of hope that they might come out alive. The South Korean NGOs that have been active in this area have the names and pictures of these people — which means their treatment can be tracked and exposed to the world. That might cause North Korea to think twice about killing them right away, although that is a long shot. (Understatement of the year, that.)

  • redwhitedude

    I doubt NK cares about what the rest of the world thinks. We might as well write them off as dead. China is really showing their true rotten colors in this case.

  • http://coryinkorea.wordpress.com/ 코리아

    I couldn’t quite glean it from the Korean news story, does this 31 include those who have been trapped in the South Korean consulate or just those who were already being held in Chinese custody? If it’s the former, how exactly did authorities, be them Chinese or N. Korean, get them out of there.

  • http://dok.do/4aVK41 Year of the Dragon

    Those bastards!

    These Chinese officials are nothing but trash…

    What is North Korea giving back in return for China sending back defectors?

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    I couldn’t quite glean it from the Korean news story, does this 31 include those who have been trapped in the South Korean consulate or just those who were already being held in Chinese custody?

    The latter.

    What is North Korea giving back in return for China sending back defectors?

    Timber and mineral ore, apparently.

  • R. Elgin

    I believe the CCP cadre who are behind this are about to have a massive, extended case of bad PR as the world gets another look at their real mind and true nature as cold, calculating overlords.

  • characteristic

    #6 NK gives back to China by just existing — if NK were to collapse (in part caused by a mass exodus of its people), it could force China to move its troops across the border to quell the factional wars and chaos that will surely follow. It will be very messy for a while but in the end (I hope) it will finally result in the reunification of Korea. If you’re the PRC, you would not want a liberal, democratic society right on your doorstep to serve as a conduit and symbol for subversive ideas. I’m sure Korea could also serve as a vital route for Chinese dissidents to escape.

  • http://www.cfekorea.com nayaCasey

    About the title of this thread: I no longer use the term “defector” to describe non-political North Koreans seeking freedom.

    I’m not sure when is the last time the Chinese government bowed to international pressure at that particular moment, although I would guess they may have adapted later when they could say they were doing it on their own terms. The international community was knocking on doors and windows, begging and pleading, but the Chinese and North Koreans opened the door long enough to say “national sovereignty” before closing it again and sharpening their knives.

    People often call on celebrities and prominent people to engage in action but they don’t mention what it is they have done. If you have been a member of a non-profit, then you know that even small donations can help (it shows potential funders that they have more support than before, having a lot of small donations can raise their standing) and donations at a moment like this are even more timely so that activist groups can tell reporters and funders that donations came in to support their cause.

    In case anyone is asking, I made a donation to Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights on January 25. I attended the March 1 protest in front of the Chinese embassy. On March 6, a National Assembly member and I agreed that we would have at least an overnight hunger strike together to protest against the Chinese government. I’ve informed numerous people I know about this and suggested that they give to organizations aiding North Koreans attempting to escape or who have already done so. You can donate here (click “Support” button at the bottom) or call them (02-723-1672) to get their bank account number.

  • cm

    Those are useful vital information for everyone here nayaCasey, I urge everyone to do their every little bit of parts to help. Also, everyone should try to get this story out to everywhere as much.

    China won’t bend to international pressure unless they feel it economically.
    Unfortunately the business at Walmart is still brisk at this time.

  • jkitchstk

    “Hey, my compliments to you regarding this topic post.”
    Don’t blame China, this has been going on for decades. It’s nothing new, get used to it! I thought Koreans had this thing called “jeong?” North and South Korea are like the Hatfield’s and the McCoys.

  • characteristic

    #12- Stop talking out of your ass.

  • R. Elgin

    Thank you Naya for the link. I contributed as well.

  • http://www.cfekorea.com nayaCasey

    R. Elgin #14, good job! I’m not sure that is the best organization, I’m not trying to favor one organization over another. I visited their tiny office last September, from what they explained to me it seems that they are engaged in practical work helping people who have successfully escaped and others who are trying to escape North Korea.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    The Chinese Communist Party has been committing atrocities for years.

    Agricultural policies which can be equated to forced starvation, the Cultural Revolution, its policies in Tibet (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPSbVPILEj8&feature=related), the Tienanmen Square massacre (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJBnHMpHGRY)…

    Should we be surprised that they are callous enough to hunt down and repatriate North Korean refugees in breach of international law? Hell, the CCP doesn’t even respect the articles of its own constitution which guarantee the rights to its citizens.

  • Arghaeri

    An overnight hungerstrike :-)

    Nothing to eat between dinner and breakfast!!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com setnaffa

    This just breaks my heart. How can the Chinese hate these poor people so much?

  • commander

    How can the Chinese be this dastardly? for starters, look at they treat their own people. Why should they treat North Koreans any better?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    I don’t see why anyone should be surprised by this at all. Press coverage on the major international networks would probably be the most effective way to apply pressure, especially if this can be tied directly to the succession of Kim Jung-eun.

  • http://dok.do/4aVK41 Year of the Dragon

    I often perform overnight hunger strikes – usually 7 per week.

    China is well known for violations of human rights which is very common in China. Also the police have too much license to abuse their powers. (eg. secret detention – the “disappeared people”).

    China basically does what it wants, and as we know, nobody is willing to stop them.

  • http://www.cfekorea.com nayaCasey

    Yah, you guys are so funny to hop on the overnight hunger strike line, but that gives me a chance to elaborate…

    I’m a fair-weather protestor, meaning the weather must be fair for me to join a protest. Congressman Cho went on a four day hunger strike, I told him I wasn’t sure I could commit to that in advance but that I would start with him, sleep in front of the Chinese embassy at least one night, then continue depending upon the weather, my comfort level (I was at a mom-and-pop bedding store in my neighborhood last night trying to find one of those small tents at a cheap price).

  • commander

    I get it.

    “Sure, I’ll join your hunger strike. But if I get hungry, then I’m outta there.”

    What’s the point?

  • http://www.cfekorea.com nayaCasey

    By the way, anyone who doesn’t do paypal can make a donation directly to the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights with an account set up specifically efforts to save North Koreans in China:

    Relief Fund Account: Woori Bank 142-097009-01-201
    Recipient: 북한인권시민연합 (NKHR)

  • http://www.cfekorea.com nayaCasey

    commander #23, that sounds about right, I get involved with activities at my own convenience and comfort level. Every movement/activity has people who bring different skills and level of interest.

  • characteristic

    #24 nayaCasey — thanks for the info… there are so many NK human groups out there and it’s difficult to choose whom to support.

  • http://www.busanhaps.com Bobby McGill

    Aside of the inhumanity, China has not figured out the whole “soft power” concept yet. These guys need to hire a PR firm. What a bunch of dolts.

  • doctoroh

    Read a piece of crap such as below, which is intended for public consumption, and contrast it with a real situation like this one. Will the real China please come out!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/09/us-china-syria-idUSBRE8280D520120309

    Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Ming will visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt on March 10-14 and then France on March 14-16, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news briefing.

    Zhang will “exchange views on the Syria issue with the responsible people at the Arab League and other countries to push for a just and appropriate resolution” and then have “consultations” in France, Liu said.

  • Creo69

    “China won’t bend to international pressure unless they feel it economically.
    Unfortunately the business at Walmart is still brisk at this time.”

    Even more unfortunate is the fact the exports headed out of South Korea to China are also quite “brisk” as well. In fact from 2009 to 2010 they were up by about 31% according to one article. Real economic or political pressure from the south…doubt it.

  • cm

    Creo69, damn the money or the economy, they should just pull the plug and get the fuck out of there.

    S.Korea fearful of Chinese retaliation over defector issue

    MARCH 07, 2012 05:09
    China could launch a diplomatic counterattack against growing international calls for Beijing to stop the forcible deportation of North Korean defectors. The South Korean government is bracing for the threat of economic retaliation over the issue.

    A government source in Seoul said Tuesday, “We`ve received reports that China has recently stepped up its crackdown on South Koreans residing in China,” adding, “We are trying to find out if the move is related to South Korea’s criticism of China for its forceful repatriation of North Korean escapees.” Another source said, “We`re closely watching China`s movements on negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement and other investment issues.”

    The South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry is focusing on a talk show aired by the state-run Chinese Central TV that signaled Beijing’s retaliation against Seoul. Song Xiaojun, a critic who joined the program, said, “If someone is hurt (due to this matter), this will undermine (South) Korea’s interests,” adding, “What will they (South Korea) do if China doesn’t trade with them?” “China won`t play with South Korea forever over the issue of North Korean defectors.”

    Gao Zugui, another participant and senior research fellow at the Institute of World Politics under China Institutes of Contemporary of International Relations, also said, “Turning this matter into an issue will be a disaster for South Korea as well,” adding, “If South Korea stirs this matter up into a big thing, the country will be isolated in the end.”

    On this, officials at the South Korean Foreign Ministry said it`s like Beijing has sent a warning to Seoul through the state-run broadcaster. Beijing will show a more hostile response if Washington steps forward to resolve the matter in sync with Seoul, according to experts.

    A high-ranking government official in Seoul said Tuesday, “In the end, what`s important is China’s attitude and only China can resolve the matter. This is what makes me feel helpless.” He added, however, “Isn’t it a humanitarian act that North Korean defectors residing in South Korea try to bring their relatives?” adding, “We have no choice but to make strenuous efforts to persuade China that this is an humanitarian issue.”

  • Creo69

    “Creo69, damn the money or the economy, they should just pull the plug and get the fuck out of there.”

    4,500 Americans lost their lives in Iraq for whatever that was all about … you honestly think anyone really gives a hoot about a handful of North Koreans?

  • Creo69

    Let’s make “JOSEPH KONY” famous… “KONY 2012″

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

  • http://dok.do/4aVK41 Year of the Dragon

    4,500 Americans lost their lives in Iraq for whatever that was all about … you honestly think anyone really gives a hoot about a handful of North Koreans?

    a handful of North Koreans…

    Let’s make “JOSEPH KONY” famous… “KONY 2012″

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

    As you know, the USA gov’t doesn’t care.

    If it doesn’t affect the security or economic interests of the USA, then they are not interested in helping…

    Both a “handful of North Koreans” and “children being forced to become sex-slaves, shoot people or get their throats slashed in Uganda” doesn’t affect the USA economy or security…

  • Creo69

    “If it doesn’t affect the security or economic interests of the USA, then they are not interested in helping…

    Both a “handful of North Koreans” and “children being forced to become sex-slaves, shoot people or get their throats slashed in Uganda” doesn’t affect the USA economy or security…”

    It will be interesting to see if these guys can pull off what they have been working at for ten years. My guess is they will and it will get done without the US govt.

  • cm

    I wouldn’t expect the US to throw away their economic interests for the lives of few North Koreans. But it would be nice to see if South Korea is forced to pull everything they have in China and get the fuck out of there, damn the money and trade. I don’t care. I’m sick of seeing SK taken hostage to these arrogant louts. Maybe SK should move every god damn penny to South East Asia and take its chances.

  • Creo69

    “I wouldn’t expect the US to throw away their economic interests for the lives of few North Koreans. But it would be nice to see if South Korea is forced to pull everything they have in China and get the fuck out of there, damn the money and trade. I don’t care. I’m sick of seeing SK taken hostage to these arrogant louts. Maybe SK should move every god damn penny to South East Asia and take its chances.”

    The Chinese are the new Americans. Pissing away money like they have it and happy to dig themselves into debt for the next best thing. South Korea won’t be excusing themselves from that dinner table anytime soon.

  • cm

    #36 perhaps not. But I’m hoping and hoping China will go through with their threats and cut off S.Korea. Problem solved.

  • http://www.cfekorea.com nayaCasey

    characteristic #26–Certainly! As outraged and disgusted as many of us are, imagine the feeling of those who have been working directly trying to free those 31, assisting those hiding in China, helping others escape from North Korea, or organizing and participating in local protests. I’m sure now that they’d appreciate support or assistance as they try to help those with the misfortune of being born in North Korea.

  • Creo69

    CM,
    Actually I think China cutting off South Korea is probably a more realistic outcome if only a temporary one. Seems as of late that South Korea has implemented some stronger responses to the actions of the Chinese (North Korean defectors, Chinese fisherman). Eventually the Chinese are going to get sick of being poked at by South Korea and retaliate and they know all to well how much South Koreans love their money.

  • shiweibo

    #9 But the reunification would pretty much eliminate the entire need for a US base there, in not just China’s eyes but Korea’s as well…I think they just don’t want to set a precedent for themselves (a la Lybia, Syria, etc)

  • characteristic

    #40- Of course China wouldn’t see the need for US bases in Korea — especially if you’re Chinese (i.e., a citizen of the PRC or a CCP member, not Chinese culturally/ethnically, etc)! But most sane Koreans will beg to differ. Korea (even if unified) is a midget compared to China… think of how much more it would be bullied if it shared a border with the PRC and there were no US presence to back them up. The PRC (in its current state) also wouldn’t want a free, democratic country right under its nose, hence the need to prop up NK.

  • shiweibo

    I just mean, I don’t think the idea of Korea being at their border/ US base in Korea is the biggest component of their actions on this…

    If you look at how they act internationally (specifically in the Middle East and Africa), you’ll see this trend. China is advancing the “non-intervention” doctrine not out of altruism but because it’s convenient…

    They’re shirking international responsibility/making tough decisions because no on will call them out on it.

    “sovereignty” my ass…if it was some ethnic Chinese in _insert country__ being abused, they’d puff their chests and want full attention and cooperation.

  • http://dok.do/4aVK41 Year of the Dragon

    re# 2…..

    Condolences to the families of the dead 31, and to the ROK, which has to suffer living next to China and the DPRK.

    Australia is lucky isn’t it?

    The Australian economy and Australian dollar is so strong, whilst the rest of the world’s economies have been suffering during the last couple of years, Australia completely went the opposite way and became so strong, so well off, and the dollar just keeps going up?

    why, THANKS to China.

    With China purchasing HUGE amounts of Australia’s coal and iron-ore, Australian’s have never had it better!

    That explains why Australia keeps helping China by giving them what they want, whilst China keeps abusing people, breaking human rights, and being complete assholes…

    Hoju_Saddam, you said “Condolences to the ROK, which has to suffer living next to China”, but why does Australia keep giving China everything it needs? just to make Australians rich?

    I hope China goes downhills (economically) and I hope Australia follows.

  • Pingback: Korea: Criticisms Mount against China for Repatriating North Korean Defectors · Global Voices