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.
Source : NBC News