WASHINGTON — South Korea's top envoy at the United Nations decried China's reported repatriation of North Korean refugees last week as a "grave" human rights violation and called for international vigilance to protect these individuals.
Yonhap News Agency reports that Ambassador Hwang Joon-kook made these remarks during a U.N. session, as human rights advocacy groups claimed that around 600 North Korean defectors detained in the Chinese provinces of Jilin and Liaoning were forcibly sent back to North Korea. "The international community cannot tolerate such actions and must stay vigilant and raise their voices to protect the human rights of these people seeking the life that they deserve," he said.
Hwang expressed extreme concern over the severe punishments, including the death penalty, that these repatriated North Koreans could face upon return to their home country. The envoy highlighted that the dire living conditions and human rights situation in North Korea have led its citizens to flee, primarily to China. He called for adherence to the international principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the forced return of refugees to places where they would face serious threats to their life or freedom.