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Ex-S. Korean envoys demand China stop repatriating N.K. defectors
Published : Nov 1, 2011 - 17:15
Updated : Nov 1, 2011 - 19:45
More than 120 diplomats who formerly served as South Korean ambassadors released a statement calling on China to stop sending North Koreans back against their will, a civic group here said Tuesday.

A total of 127 ex-ambassadors accused the Chinese government of violating international law by sending back the refugees.

“It is the international society’s unchangeable custom to protect and shelter refugees,” the diplomats said in the statement released during a press conference here.

The statement comes as Beijing continues to send back North Koreans caught attempting to escape their homeland by crossing the border with China. Those repatriated to the North are likely to face severe punishment at the hands of the regime.

As recently as September, a group of 20 North Koreans was rounded up by the Chinese police in Shenyang, China, along with 10 others in Weihai, Shandong Province, to be repatriated, according to the Commission to Help North Korean Refugees, a South Korean humanitarian group.

The Seoul government has for years unsuccessfully asked China and the U.N. to play a role in stopping the repatriation of the defectors.

Nearly 22,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, braving deadly risks and avoiding tough crackdowns in their own country as well as China.

Seoul believes tens of thousands of North Koreans are currently hiding in China, waiting for the chance to come to the South. The Unification Ministry here, which specializes in affairs with Pyongyang, expects at least 3,000 more North Korean defectors to come to the South by the end of this year.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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