South Korean Envoy Calls for UN Unity Against Forced Repatriation of North Korean Defectors

SEOUL - South Korea's envoy for North Korean human rights has called for unity among United Nations members to prevent further forced repatriation of North Korean defectors, the South Korean foreign ministry announced on Friday.

According to a new release by Yonhap News Agency, Lee Shin-wha, the ambassador-at-large for international cooperation on North Korean human rights, issued the call during the U.N. Third Committee sessions in New York. Lee expressed serious concerns over China's recent forced repatriation of hundreds of North Koreans from its northeastern border regions.

The ambassador urged all U.N. members to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the forced return of refugees to countries where they are at risk of persecution. Lee also called on North Korea to immediately release all abductees, detainees, and South Korean prisoners of war.

China, a key ally of Pyongyang, does not recognize North Korean defectors as refugees and regularly repatriates them to North Korea, where they face the risk of severe punishment.

Lee acknowledged the United Nations Security Council for convening a meeting on North Korean human rights in August, marking the first such discussion in six years. She emphasized the importance of conducting these talks within the framework of the Security Council.

In addition to the U.N. sessions, Lee engaged in separate dialogue with Julie Turner, the new U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights, and Elizabeth Salmon, the U.N. special rapporteur for North Korean human rights. The parties discussed the pressing human rights situation in North Korea and shared views on international efforts to hold those responsible accountable.

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