North Korean, South Korean Delegates Scuffle at UN Meeting in Geneva

Posted March 13th, 2012 at 4:00 am (UTC-5)
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South Korean lawmakers clashed with a North Korean diplomat on Monday outside a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Switzerland.

The scuffle broke out when a delegation of South Korean politicians approached North Korea's ambassador to Geneva, So Se-pyong, after he rejected the contents of a U.N. report on human rights abuses by Pyongyang.

Security guards quickly broke up the scuffle and at least one official was reported to have been briefly detained.

The South Korean delegation was chanting slogans in support of North Korean defectors who face deportation by Chinese authorities after fleeing their poverty-stricken communist country.

China says it has the right to send the defectors back to North Korea, calling them “economic migrants.” But human rights activists say the detainees could face torture or execution if they are returned.

In Seoul, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Chinese embassy Tuesday to ask for the release of the defectors following reports that about 30 have already been forcibly repatriated.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Byung-jae said Tuesday he will continue working to secure the release of the detainees.

“If there are ways to resolve the matter and allow more defectors to live freely, we will actively pursue them whether they are bilateral or multilateral measures.”

Rights activists fear the defectors will be severely punished for fleeing during the recent mourning period for the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack in December.