Renewed Attention Called to Plight of North Korean Refugees in China
The visit to the United States of Chinese president Hu Jintao has called renewed attention to the plight of North Korean refugees who have fled to China.
China is a party to the UN Refugee Convention but refuses to acknowledge the refugee claims of North Koreans seeking sanctuary inside its borders. It asserts that they are all “food migrants.” In violation of its international obligations, China arrests most North Koreans and forcibly returns to them to North Korea.
A particularly poignant case involves a North Korean woman known as Kim Chun-Hee, who pleaded for help at a Korean international school in China. She was arrested immediately and deported to North Korea. She has not been heard from since. Her case has received widespread attention, including an editorial April 19 in The Wall Street Journal and a statement issued March 30 by the White House.
American citizens who wish to speak out on the subject are urged to write to members of Congress in support of greater U.S. engagement on behalf of refugees fleeing North Korea.
Citizens of other countries can urge their governments to press China to honor its international obligations by refraining from returning North Koreans to persecution and by granting the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, access to refugees inside China.