Seoul Advocates for Protection of North Korean Defectors at U.N. Review

SEOUL - A coalition of civic groups has expressed support for the South Korean government's recent actions at a United Nations review session, where it called on China to uphold the human rights of North Korean defectors within its borders. This initiative marks a significant diplomatic move by South Korea in addressing a longstanding human rights issue on an international platform.

According to Yonhap News Agency, South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. office in Geneva, Yun Seong-deok, urged Beijing to provide necessary protections and humanitarian support to North Korean defectors during China's fourth universal periodic review (UPR) conducted under the United Nations Human Rights Council. This occasion was the first instance of South Korea addressing the human rights concerns of North Korean defectors in relation to China at the U.N. peer-review process. The UPR is a mechanism that requires each U.N. member state to undergo a review of its human rights record every 4.5 years.

The NGO Council for North Korean Human Rights, comprising 61 rights groups from South Korea and other countries, welcomed South Korea's stance and urged China to implement the recommendation promptly. The organization highlighted South Korea's diplomatic effort in bringing to the global community's attention China's non-compliance with international norms, particularly the principle of non-refoulement. This principle asserts that no individual should be returned to a country where they face the risk of persecution.

China, as a key ally of Pyongyang, does not recognize North Korean defectors as refugees and has a policy of regularly repatriating them to North Korea. Such actions pose a significant risk of severe punishment for the repatriated individuals. Last year, South Korean human rights groups reported that China had forcibly returned hundreds of North Korean defectors from its northeastern border regions back to North Korea. The South Korean government confirmed these repatriations, though it did not specify the exact number of individuals affected.

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