Tags: Defectors | Describe | North | Korea's | Abuses

Defectors Describe North Korea's Abuses

Tuesday, 15 January 2002 12:00 AM

Meeting with a fact-finding team from the U.S. House International Relations Committee, eight defectors said North Korean women who attempted to flee their country were raped, kidnapped and sold to human traffickers.

The defectors challenged the North's claims of religious freedom. "There is no freedom of religion in North Korea," Jung Lying-in, who fled the North in 1999, told the U.S. delegates.

Despite beefed-up border surveillance, an increasing number of North Koreans are reportedly managing to escape their famine-stricken country. International human rights groups say tens of thousands of North Koreans have slipped into China hoping to find their way to South Korea.

But even when they make it across their tightly controlled border, North Koreans don't always find freedom.

In China, defectors live in hiding because the Chinese dictatorship regards them as illegal aliens and not refugees seeking asylum. If caught, they are returned to North Korea.

The South Korean government doesn't exactly put out the welcome mat for their escaping brethren. South Korea regards North Korean escapees as an impediment to progress in inter-Korean reconciliation.

The rapid increase in the number of North Koreans to reach the South - 570 last year compared to 312 in 2000 - is not necessarily good news in Seoul.

Kim Sang-churl, a South Korean human rights activist who heads the Commission to Help North Korean Refugees, has launched a worldwide campaign to provide political shelters - a euphemism for refugee camps - for North Korea escapees outside South Korea.

Kim, who arranged the meeting with the defectors, said the U.S. delegation mentioned the possibility of setting up North Korean refugee camps in a third country, such as Mongolia.

The extent of South Korea's anxiety to distance itself from the issue of Pyongyang's repression of its own people in the interests of conciliation was also in evidence when the government in Seoul refused to allow Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean official to seek political asylum in Seoul, to travel to Washington.

Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., head of the U.S. House International Relations Committee, and Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., invited Hwang to testify before congressional committees about North Korea. But Pyongyang has warned the South Korean government relations would deteriorate if Hwang is allowed to testify in Washington regarding North Korea.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Meeting with a fact-finding team from the U.S. House International Relations Committee, eight defectors said North Korean women who attempted to flee their country were raped, kidnapped and sold to human traffickers. The defectors challenged the North's claims of...
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2002-00-15
Tuesday, 15 January 2002 12:00 AM
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