China Vows to Repatriate 30 North Koreans

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 10:10 am (UTC-5)
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China is rejecting South Korean pleas not to repatriate 30 North Koreans recently arrested in Chinese territory.

A spokesman for China's foreign ministry says the detained North Koreans are not refugees. He says they crossed the border into China illegally and for economic reasons.

South Korea says it will raise the issue of the North Korean defectors before the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees next week in Geneva.

Human-rights activists say if the North Koreans are repatriated they could face harsh punishment and even death.

South Korean human-rights activists gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul Monday, where they heard a moving appeal from Soh Kyung-suk, co-chairman of a group called Christian Social Responsibility.

“If you listen to the screams of our North Korean defector brothers, you cannot listen to them without tears welling in your eyes. Therefore, if we stay silent and do nothing while watching them being dragged to the execution ground, we are living inhumane lives.”

Soh said it is not possible to stand by while innocent North Korean defectors are carried off to likely execution.