Home Top Stories China appears to have forcibly repatriated a ‘large number’ of North Koreans, South says

China appears to have forcibly repatriated a ‘large number’ of North Koreans, South says

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China appears to have forcibly repatriated a ‘large number’ of North Koreans, South says

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said on Friday it had protested to China over the suspected forced repatriation of a large number of North Koreans, who rights groups say face imprisonment and abuse at the hands of North Korean authorities.

Any forced repatriation of North Koreans goes against international norms and South Korea views it as regrettable, Koo Byoung-sam, a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, told a media briefing.

“It appears to be true that a large number of North Koreans in China’s three northeast provinces have been repatriated to the North,” Koo said.

South Korea has been unable to determine the number of people involved and whether there were defectors among them.

“The South Korean government regrets the situation and raised this matter with the Chinese side in a serious manner, emphasizing our position,” he said.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday there were no “so-called defectors” in China, when asked about a report Beijing had deported about 600 North Korean defectors this week despite a South Korean appeal not to force people back.

China has never recognized fleeing North Koreans as defectors and instead describes them as “economic migrants.”

The Chinese ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, referring to North Koreans who entered illegally for economic reasons, said China had always handled the issue “properly” according to principles of domestic and international law and humanitarianism.

South Korea’s government and international rights organizations have said defectors who are deported back to the North face harsh punishment, including detention at labor camps where they are subject to dangerous treatment and conditions.

Human Rights Watch said Chinese authorities had forced back more than 500 North Koreans, most of them women, and it called on governments to denounce the expulsion by Beijing and call for an end to it.

The North Koreans were taken in vehicle convoys on Monday night over five separate border crossings into the North, the rights group said, citing a missionary with contacts in the North and China who worked to help defectors.

A North Korean who defected to South Korea in 2001 said a cousin of his, who had lived in China for 25 years, and had a daughter with a Chinese man, was believed to be among those deported this week.

The defector, Kim Hyuk, told Reuters that his cousin, Kim Cheol-ok, was detained by Chinese authorities in Jilin province in April and had in recent days called her daughter from prison to say she was about to be sent back to North Korea.

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