The totalitarian regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has promised death to three generations of kinsmen for any person caught trying to escape from the Stalinist state during the official mourning period for former leader Kim Jong-il who died in December 2011.
It is well-known that defectors from North Korea captured by Chinese authorities are rounded up and sent back to the D.P.R.K., where they likely face internment in a prison camp. Protestors in Seoul gathered together to protest this practice by the P.R.C., shedding light on the terrible situation of North Korean defectors who are sent back to North Korea after attempting to defect.
Their fate includes the aforementioned internment in a prison camp, as well as possible torture or execution. A large group of 30 to 40 defectors being held in China is receiving special attention because of the edict issued by Pyongyang after the death of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. North Korea has promised “three generations” of executions for those caught defecting. Even the South Korean government is placing pressure on Beijing to repatriate the defectors to South Korea.
South Korean trade with the People’s Republic of China is a huge trump card in its interactions with the regional power but South Korean ambassador to China Lee Kyu Hyung states: “We repeatedly stress that this issue must be dealt with from a humanitarian standpoint. China holds onto the belief that the defectors are illegal economic immigrants.” Further, China does not consider the North Koreans to be refugees fleeing from an oppressive regime which allows it to pay lip service to its signing of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
The current situation, if resolved in the conventional method with repatriation back to the D.P.R.K. and subsequent internment of the refugees, then this issue could boil over and may prove a sticking point in North Korea’s current ongoing negotiations with regional parties about food aid in return for nuclear disarmament.