Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The latest on the repatriation issue

Once again, I'm simply copying this off Ask a Korean.  Please keep this issue in your prayers.  Refer back to my earlier post on this topic for my other suggestions on what you can be doing.  While you're at it, sign this petition and this one, too.

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Here are some more tidbits on the North Korean defectors front.

- Graduates of Yeomyung School, a South Korean charter school for North Korean defector children, created the most successful online petition to date. At www.savemyfriend.org, a petition to the officials of the United Nations, European Union and the United States has garnered more than 127,000 signatures so far. Please take your time to sign the petition, and share them on your Facebook and Twitter. It will only take a minute.

Cha In-Pyo (center) protesting in front of the Chinese embassy.
- Backed by the Save My Friend movement, superstar actor Cha In-Pyo and other celebrities organized two protests in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul, on the 18th and on the 21st. National Assemblywoman Park Seon-Yeong has been holding a hunger strike in front of the Chinese embassy since the 21st as well; she plans to continue until China announces that it will treat North Korean defectors as refugees. There are also candle light vigils being held in various cities of Korea.

- The Chinese government is stonewalling. There are reports that nine of the 28 North Korean defectors were already repatriated, although other reports say they are still in China. The Chinese government has refused to verify the whereabouts of those defectors. In a regular briefing held on the 24th, Chinese government official only repeated that China has been handling the issue "in accordance with domestic law, international law and humanitarian principles." When asked which humanitarian principles were followed when China previously repatriated North Korean defectors, the spokesman only repeated that China has been keeping with the principles.

- Korean government is considering what may end up being an extremely helpful measure: issuing temporary South Korean travel certificate to any North Korean defector in China. With the travel certificate, even if the defector is arrested by Chinese police, s/he can credibly claim that s/he is a South Korean citizen. Even if the claim is less than completely credible, it may provide enough cover for the Chinese police to receive bribes and let the defector go. (Apparently, right now the going price is 100,000 yuan per person -- approximately $16,000.)

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

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