This episode was only one of many where North Korean refugees ran inside foreign embassies in China and asked for sanctuary. China's response was not to liberalize its policies; it installed barbed wire and other impediments to freedom so that this technique is now virtually impossible.
Radio Free Asia's articles -- Film Captures Refugee Plight, China Arrests Ten Defectors, Guide, Death Stalks North Korean Defectors, China Detains More Defectors, and Rights Groups Check Deportation Claims -- all report that China routinely deports North Koreans back to North Korea, even though it is well known that these people are imprisoned, tortured, and often killed.
The guide for one group of refugees was imprisoned for two years in China for her efforts and now faces even more prison time. Another guide was imprisoned in China for four years.
As the CFR and RFA articles and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea note, China considers North Korean refugees to be economic ones, rather than political ones. But that's only the start. RFA wrote that although China is a state party to the U.N. Refugee Convention, it has prevented the U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR, from gaining access to North Koreans in China.
International law prohibits the forcible return either directly or indirectly of any individuals to a country where they are at risk of persecution, torture or other ill-treatment, or death.
The third dictator of the Kim family, Kim Jong-un, warned North Koreans after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, that the entire family and relatives of those who fled the country during the 100-day mourning period would be annihilated.
And why would China even care what happens to North Korean refugees? Why not just allow South Korea to come and pick them up in buses? South Korea has repeatedly asked China to do just that.
China is using North Korea as a buffer between it and the West. China pretends to be a friend of the West, but in truth it only wants our money. China made a bargain with North Korea: North Korea will be propped up indefinitely and in return China will participate in North Korea's abuse of its own citizens.
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Radio Free Asia continued its coverage of North Korea with an article on Kim Jong-un's allegedly surprise visits to ordinary people. The photo of Kim walking with school children crying because they are walking with the fearless leader speaks volumes. Kim has the expression of a benevolent and much-loved leader, while the core children are behaving exactly as they have been taught.
The article continues with a description of how Kim, in an supposedly unscripted manner, visited a barracks housing starving soldiers. Kim berated the commanders and sent the soldiers off to obtain nourishment.
Then Kim visited the home of a starving family, and as before, solved all of their problems.
No mention was made of Kim splitting a few loaves and fishes into sufficient food for thousands of people, but maybe next week.
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BBC News' article, UN 'dismayed' over North Korea refugees, is the latest sad chapter on North Korea.
Nine people, aged 15-23, failed in their attempt to escape their hellhole of a country. They were arrested in Laos on the 16th of May. They were then sent to China, which put them on a flight to Pyongyang.
Unless one carries a map of Laos in one's head, one will not be able to appreciate the complete injustice of this. Laos lies a great distance from the Korean Peninsula. We may never know, but it is likely that the nine escaped from North Korea and traveled completely through China, a journey of well over 2000 miles. Every moment of their journey in China would have been harrowing, as China is known to forcibly repatriate North Koreans in blatant violation of international law, as China is party to Articles 33 and 35 of the United Nations Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on Torture. The most logical assumption is that they were heading for Thailand, which allows North Korean refugees to continue on to South Korea, the terminus of an Asian underground railroad. They almost made it.
Laos, like its neighbor Cambodia, is a repressive country in the image of China. Laos could easily have allowed the refugees to enter the South Korean embassy, but it proved that it, along with China and Cambodia, do not belong in the list of civilized countries. And the fact that Laos returned them to China, which then repatriated them, speaks volumes as to the master-slave relationship between China and Laos.
All of the nine were orphans. Perhaps their parents were executed for daring to dream of a life different than the one the Kim family dictated for them. Perhaps their parents died of starvation during one of the many famines caused by gross incompetence, tyranny, and the criminally self-centered Kim family. We will never know.
Orphans live a pathetic life in North Korea, China, Laos, and Cambodia, one which Charles Dickens would have readily recognized. Radio Free Asia's article, Hard Life for North Korean Orphans in China, described how orphans gather together in small groups for self-preservation, as no one beside other orphans has any sympathy for them.
"The orphans are really poor children. In China, they must beg during the daytime and sleep in caves at night," said Kim Jin-myeong, an orphan whose parents died of illness when he was young. "One of the young North Koreans is my good friend. I remember giving him food once after he was beaten while begging."
It is certain the nine will be imprisoned, if not executed, for defying the absolute rule of the Kim family.
I would ask that people say a prayer for these nine people, but God does not appear to be concerned over the plight of North Koreans.
Originally posted in 2012-13.