Rights Groups Raise Alarm on Forced Repatriation of North Korean Defectors from China

SEOUL - Human rights advocacy groups in South Korea sounded an alarm on Monday regarding the possible forced repatriation of North Korean defectors from China to their home country.

According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, including Lawyers for Human Rights and Unification of Korea, about 600 North Korean defectors had reportedly been forcibly repatriated from the provinces of Jilin and Liaoning earlier this month. Seoul's unification ministry had confirmed that a "large number" of North Korean residents had been repatriated, although it did not specify the exact figures.

Kim Tae-hoon, the honorary chairman of Lawyers for Human Rights and Unification of Korea, said at a press conference that China appears to be preparing for an additional repatriation, emphasizing that the situation warrants "considerable vigilance." The rights groups claimed that another round of forced repatriations is likely to involve hundreds more given that at least 170 defectors remain detained in a single facility after 180 were previously sent back to North Korea.

The organizations noted that all food and medical supplies to the detention facility have been halted, leading to expectations that the remaining defectors would be sent back soon. Concerns are mounting that these defectors could face human rights abuses and severe penalties upon their return to North Korea, particularly after the country reopened its border in August following more than three years of COVID-19 lockdowns.

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